There’s a slogan in Valenzuela City where Deputy Speaker Rep. Eric Martinez, a native son, is honored for his untiring efforts in doing good. It’s “Eric Never Stops.” And for sure, there’s no stopping his campaign to make Valenzuela the basketball capital of the country with six NBA-themed wooden courts laid out in different barangays, murals of PBA stars on buildings, a Bahay Alamat gym honoring Philippine hoop legends and a local version of New York’s fabled Rucker Park in promoting a healthy and drug-free city.

For Martinez, it’s not about his passion for basketball but about inspiring the youth to play and live right. Today, Martinez will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant on his first death anniversary with the groundbreaking of a multi-purpose hall called Gigi’s Crib in honor of the L.A. Laker’s daughter who perished with him in a helicopter crash on the hills of Calabasas, near Los Angeles, the unveiling of two House of Kobe mound markers, the raising of the Lakers’ 17th championship banner and the opening of an art exhibit. It will happen starting at 8:24 this morning, commemorating Kobe’s jersey numbers 8 and 24.

Gigi’s Crib is right beside the House of Kobe which Martinez inaugurated last year in Barangay Karuhatan hours before the tragic accident. The House was opened at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26. Kobe died at about 10 a.m., on Sunday, Jan. 26, US Pacific time or 2 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 27, Manila time. Martinez was crestfallen with the news of Kobe’s death and cried for two days.  Since the inauguration of the House, Martinez said thousands of visitors have entered the doors, many coming from abroad, to honor Kobe. If not for the pandemic, the House would’ve welcomed thousands more.

To prepare for today’s event, Martinez had two huge tarps draped outside the House. One is a photo-shopped portrait of Kobe, wearing 24, and LeBron James, wearing 23, slapping fives under a LeBron quote “I promise you I’ll continue your legacy, man” and the other is a full-body posed picture of Kobe with the words “Miss you Kobe!” and “Mamba forever.” Martinez’ theme for the program is #NeverForgetGreatness. In announcing the tribute, Martinez quoted Kobe as saying “You asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart.”

Martinez said Gigi’s Crib is “dedicated to the dreams, hopes and vision of our youth.” The “manhole” markers will be imbedded on the ground in the House as a commemorative of “Mamba Mentality.” Rapper, court artist and basketball fan Mike Swift will do his personal tribute to Kobe with a rap number during the program. On display in the House will be replica Kobe jerseys from Lower Merion high school, the NBA All-Star Game, the Olympics and the Lakers.

Martinez said when news of Kobe’s death spread, the House became a sanctuary for fans. “The House of Kobe is an inspiration to the new generation of ballers to keep the Mamba Mentality burning, reminding all of us to keep going, to become better until we are the best, living without fear or failure, mastering our craft and the desire to win and dominate,” he said. “The House features a larger than life mural of the Black Mamba in the lobby, showing the iconic butterfly tattoo on his shoulder. On the center of the wooden parquet court is the Mamba logo. Shown around the court are murals and quotes of the great Kobe Bryant. Outside is a Japanese-inspired rock zen garden. It is dedicated to the life and inspiration of his mantra, the Mamba Mentality.”

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