JAKARTA—The enormity of the Asian Games did not sink in for Jordan Clarkson until he finally walked out to the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Saturday night, as the flag-bearer of the Philippine delegation in the opening ceremonies.
Commentators noted that Clarkson was a “very late” addition to the delegation, having gotten his clearance from the NBA just a day before the Philippine basketball team opened its campaign in the Asiad.
Yet the circumstances of his participation only served to make the experience all the more special for the 26-year-old Filipino-American guard, who proudly wore a Barong Tagalog during the opening ceremonies like his fellow athletes.
In a press conference on Sunday night at the Ritz Carlton, Clarkson said that being the flag-bearer counted as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.
“It’s up there, definitely,” he said when asked if it was more thrilling than playing in the NBA Finals, which he already did last June as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I haven’t seen something like that ever,” Clarkson added. “I didn't know there was that many people there, I didn't know how big the Asian Games really was until I kind of came out that tunnel.”
“I already knew it was an honor to carry the flag and represent the country, but coming out there, and it was probably one of the happiest moments I had in my career, in my life.”
Adding to Clarkson’s delight was the sight of other Philippine teams who were representing the country.
“It was just a great experience, great feeling for me. It was an honor,” he said.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Ricky Vargas said that seeing Clarkson carry the flag was a major boost to other Filipino athletes.
“I was with him when we were walking as we enter the coliseum, and we were encouraged and our morale was boosted because he was there also, walking with us and cheering us on,” he said.
With the opening ceremonies done, however, Clarkson is ready to go to work. He has been practicing heavily with the rest of the basketball team since arriving in Jakarta, and will make his debut for the Philippines on Tuesday against China.
“I feel like the guys are ready,” said Clarkson, who arrived in the third quarter of the Philippines’ game against Kazakhstan last week. “We coming to win, we coming to fight.”
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