When Andre and Kobe Paras were kids, they used to fight a lot. The two eldest sons of basketball player-turned-showbiz funnyman, Benjie Paras, got into “’yong typical na nag-aaway, pikunan, kulitan” growing up, Andre described. Andre, who’s two years older than Kobe, narrated in the September issue of YES! Magazine (the brothers and their family home are featured in the cover story) their worst fight involved playing PlayStation 2 (PS2), a home video game console.
“We were young, like, eight, nine years old,” recalled Andre, who pursues a career both in showbiz and basketball. “We were playing PS2, and then…I don’t know. He’s weird in a way na when he plays, he doesn’t wanna fight -- and that’s the whole point. He just wanted to roam around [the room]…I went behind him and I started beating him, then he threw the remote [control]. I think, that day, he didn’t want to play with me anymore.”
Now that they’re grown-ups -- Andre, 22 (on November 1), and Kobe, 20 (on September 19) -- Andre said they still tease each other. “But it’s not like to the point na iiyak or magsusumbong,” he added, chuckling. “It’s for fun lang, and at the same time, I guess, it’s a way of testing the bond we have.”
Kobe pointed out that he and his older brother (he doesn’t call Andre kuya) went through a phase “hating each other” and then they became super close. “He’s my best man,” he said, also in the YES! interview. “So if I’m gonna get married tomorrow, he’d be the guy beside me, yeah!”
The brothers’ transition from rivals to buddies happened when Kobe, at age 15, moved to the U.S. to continue his studies at the Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, California, where he played basketball for the school team. “I cried a lot when he left,” Andre said. “And then he just said he’ll be back, or he said he’s doing this for the family and for him, for us. It’s okay but kahit any word he said, wala, he’s gone pa rin. So, no matter what, I was really sensitive about it. I pretty much got used to it from time to time, ’cause you know, I realized I have to work, so if I get to save out, I get to visit him…”
Though he’s older, Andre wasn’t the one who imparted words of wisdom and life lessons to Kobe. “Honestly, he was the one who was giving me advice when he left,” Andre confessed. “You know, ‘Have fun, don’t listen to negative people.’ Or he’ll tell me, like, ‘If you have work, do it.’ Or, ‘If you have chance to play again, then play again.’ Ako, I just told him, ‘Follow your dreams.’”
Andre couldn’t forget the first few months after his younger brother’s departure for the U.S. “It was weird, because there’s no one teasing me,” he said. “There’s no one, like, just asking me to go out, like, just to the convenience store or just drive around the city at night. No one tells me to do that anymore, so I was, like, it feels weird, ’cause sometimes, you expect to say something back na parang ‘I wanna sleep,’ or, you know, it was typical na ‘I don’t want.’ But now, I’m looking for it [that kind of response.]”
Kobe, on the other hand, remembered feeling “homesick and depressed.” According to dad Benjie, he would call, crying, to release his feelings of homesickness. “But then,” Kobe pointed out, “I used as motivation my parents and the fact that there are a lot of people who would like to be in my position, you know. And then I just did my best, forgot homesickness, got used to it.”
In early 2017, Andre, who had played for La Salle Greenies in high school and then UP Fighting Maroons and San Beda Red Lions in college, got an offer to join the AMA Online Education team that competes in the semi-pro Philippine Basketball Association Development League, or PBA D-League. At that time, Andre, a GMA-7 contract artist whose acting credits included the teleseryes The Half Sisters and That’s My Amboy, as well as the movies, Diary ng Panget and Girlfriend for Hire, had just ended his stint on Encantadia. He felt ready to return to playing competitive basketball.
But before making his decision, Andre sought the advice of his father and brother. Dad Benjie simply told him, “Ikaw. Kung kaya mo, di, okey.” Kobe, who at that time was in Omaha, Nebraska studying at and playing basketball for Creighton University, sent a long cellphone message, virtually pushing his older brother. “You always complain to me how you miss basketball, this and that.” And so, Andre chose to pick up the ball again.
The equally good-looking Paras brothers make it clear that there’s no sibling rivalry going on between them as far as basketball is concerned. “We play different positions, e,” Andre explained. “He’s a guard; I’m a forward-center. I play in the Philippines; he plays in America. I’m undersized; he’s got perfect height. So the more you compare, the more you won’t find answers.”
Andre has only praise for Kobe, who had just played with the Philippine national team, Gilas Pilipinas, competing in the 2017 William Jones Cup (Taiwan, July 15 to 23); FIBA Asia Cup 2017 (Lebanon, August 8 to 20); and SEA Games 2017 (Malaysia, August 19 to 30). After the Team Philippines won the gold medal at the SEA Games 2017, Kobe has gone back to the U.S. to study and play for the California State University in Northridge.
“I’m happy, like, that was our dream ever since,” Andre said of his younger brother. “Kaya when he was making his name and when he was proving himself, it’s a good feeling, also to me as a kuya. So, you know what, he did it without his name. He did it with his skills… Pretty much he did it ’cause he wanted to do it.”
The kuya is aware that Kobe looks up to him, too. “But I just hear it from interviews,” Andre pointed out. “I understand he just wants to say it straight up, like, he just looks up to me ’cause I guess ever since naman, I was there to take care of him. But ngayon, I look up to him when it comes to sports or being mature and independent…At least, we look up at each other and not to anyone else -- and Dad also.”