Having just turned 25, there is still a lot more in store for Ricci Rivero. The GAME catches up with the on-court and on-screen entertainer to find out what he’s been up to and what’s up next.
Ricci Rivero hardly needs an introduction.
Ever since he came into the public consciousness as a basketball player in the senior basketball tournament of the UAAP in 2016, people have not stopped talking about Ricci. He has frequently found himself on the top of the most-searched or most-talked-about lists on the internet, proving that this viral sensation was anything but a one-hit wonder, even in a generation of speedy trend turnovers.
Though his claim to fame was his skill with a ball in hand, Ricci has been gaining more attention for things outside of what he does best as of late, while he has been recovering from an injury. But even so, his life off the court is perhaps just as vibrant.
Over the past few years, Ricci has been fortunate enough to be able to explore other passions in his life, particularly his love for the film industry. And through this, many of his fans stay connected to him through the screen, but now in a different medium taking on new roles and characters.
So, what exactly has Ricci Rivero been up to both in and out of the spotlight?
Taking a step back
Having just turned 25 last month, Ricci admitted that when he was younger, he did have a picture of where he would be in his life right now. But being honest, he did not expect to be exactly where he is right now, with all the twists and turns his life has been full of up to this point.
Even though the way he plays makes it seem like he was meant to be a basketball player, he actually dove into the world of sports with taekwondo first before playing volleyball and basketball.
“I think I was seven at the time [when] nag-transition ako sa volleyball and basketball,” he explained, sharing that he took after his dad who was on the men’s national volleyball team.
“Pero feel ko mas love niya yung basketball, kaya doon niya kami in-introduce.”
It was only when he was in the sixth grade — after moving from the province of Isabela to the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila — that he decided to commit to basketball after his older brother Prince did the same thing. And as a young hooper, he had already somehow struck a balance between having fun and pushing himself to develop on and off the court.
“While playing the game, you’re having fun, but you’re also learning a lot of stuff,” he said. “Even off the court, na-aapply namin ‘yung mga values na tinuturo sa players.”
From there, he continued to grow into the player we all now know him to be: the entertainer on the court.
Although he is known for his flashy style on the court, he actually revealed that when he was in the process of developing his unique playing style, he was simply taking “a little bit of everything” from the players he idolized — athletes like the Fast and the Furious duo of Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa. He also mentioned that his game was influenced by John Arigo, owing to the fact that they’re built the same way.
With regards to his signature move, the Eurostep, this was something that he was reluctant to try at first but shared that it was his dad who introduced it to him. He explained that he felt awkward executing the play. But, after seeing how effective it turned out to be on the court, he decided to add it to his arsenal of moves. The playful character we see on the court now is simply a product of his experiences and learnings as a player, none of it carefully calculated to become exactly what it is today.
Yet, his style really took to many basketball fans, and even international basketball players who admire his playing style online.
It was when Ricci began playing college ball that his career really began to take off with more and more eyes watching him play as a DLSU Green Archer and later, as a UP Fighting Maroon. Representing two different prestigious universities here in the country, and winning titles for both, many will likely be surprised to discover that Ricci was actually planning on attending university abroad instead.
“I was supposed to study abroad after high school,” he revealed. “Si Prince lang nagsabi na, ‘Dito ka na lang. ‘Pag dito ka, [I’ll be able to] guide you, magkakasama tayo, wala kang masyadong problema.’“
So, taking a leap of faith, as he put it, he decided to stay and compete in the UAAP. And the rest is history.
Last year, basketball fans were excited for Ricci Rivero to take his talents from the UP Fighting Maroons to the Taoyuan Pauian Pilots, a professional basketball team in Taiwan. Unfortunately, however, he had to withdraw from the team before he could even play his first game due to an injury to his knee that also affected him in his last UAAP season with the Fighting Maroons.
“I was in Taiwan, and ‘di ko talaga kinaya, so we cut the contract short for me to be able to come home and start rehab for my knee,” Rivero revealed. “As an athlete, you have to look at the bigger picture.”
Coming home, he had a lot of adjusting to do. He was no longer a student at the University of the Philippines, but he was also not competing professionally, as he previously thought he would be. All of a sudden, the pace of Ricci’s life had shifted completely.
But, he expressed that all it took for him to adjust to this new pace was to refocus and get into the groove of his new routine.
“Naging sobrang iba talaga, especially after graduating from UP, kasi the classes aren’t there, some of the things I would do, naiba na talaga, so I’ve been trying as much as possible to work on my routine,” he explained.
“I’ve been trying, as much as possible, to work out every day, do my rehab, make sure I can play basketball — the more often the better.”
This is why many fans were abruptly left wondering, where did Ricci Rivero go? But, anyone who was paying close attention would know, he did not disappear completely.
From arena lights to studio lights
It isn’t a secret that Ricci Rivero has dipped into the world of entertainment. After all, even as a basketball player, he was already one to not only make shots but also entertain on the court.
In 2018, he starred in his first full-length film, Otlum. And while many of his fans were surprised to catch him playing another character rather than playing for a basketball team, Ricci revealed to The GAME that this has always been something that he was curious about.
“‘Pag bata tayo, meron tayong mga gustong magawa, and growing up, siguro dahil galing akong province, napapanood ko ‘yung mga local shows. So, nag-wonder ako before what it’s like to be in that industry.”
With a year off due to residency rules following his move from DLSU to UP, he had the time to explore this new passion when the offers were coming in.
“Hindi kasi ako makakalaro ng UAAP right away, at may mga nag-aask sa managers, so sabi ko, sige nga i-try ko ‘to, wala naman akong gagawin.”
Wanting to get a behind-the-scenes look into showbiz, and on top of this, experience it for himself as an active participant in the filmmaking industry, he took the opportunity when it was presented to him.
And after Otlum, it seemed that Ricci had been bitten by the showbiz bug.
When asked what his experiences in the entertainment industry have been like so far, he could not help but smile and say, “Sobrang saya.”
Embracing the cross-over
Ricci’s joy in working in film certainly showed. The former UAAP star went on to pursue more roles as an actor. In 2021, he starred in a local TV series entitled Gen Z, as well as two more full-length films, Rabid and Happy Times.
But these opportunities did not just present themselves to him because he was already a superstar in the local basketball scene. Like any other actor, he also had to work hard to earn his roles.
“I remember when I did my very first movie Otlum for the Metro Manila Film Festival in 2018, baon ko lang ang curiosity ko kung paano nga ba umarte sa harap ng camera — at dahil lumaki ako sa sports — when I committed to doing it, it’s automatic that it should come with a lot of hard work,” he explained.
“Alam kong kailangan ko mag acting workshop, mag look test, mag script reading – dumaan ako sa tamang proseso para makuha yung resulta na expected sakin. Pareho lang ng amount of discipline ang kailangan sa parehong industry.”
And while this seems like quite a jump — from being a hooper to an actor on the big screen — Ricci explained that in reality, the filming process is a lot like training for basketball.
“Ang ginawa ko lang, parang naglalaro lang ako ng basketball. The older and more experienced ones, sila ang tinatanong ko kung paano minsan. Ang mga directors, I look at them as my coaches. Marami akong natutunan every day, every shoot.”
So, even while the road to recovery as an athlete is not always the easiest, Ricci was fortunate that he had a passion he could foster in the meantime. In fact, he was proud to share his latest project, Day Zero, a film set in a society in the middle of a violent outbreak.
Looking back at the projects that he has worked on as an actor, there are two titles that he is proudest of — Gen Z and Happy Times. He explains that he loves both outcomes equally, but for different reasons. Ricci’s shared that his role on Happy Times was very close to his heart because the character he played was very similar to who he is off the camera, and getting to channel his personal experiences into a character was an enjoyable way to fulfill his role as an actor in the movie.
On the other hand, Gen Z was a different challenge for him, as he explained that his character was far from who he was in real life and had undergone experiences that he himself had not. With this, he had to dig deep to try and channel the emotions and characteristics of his character, but it was a challenge that he welcomed with open arms.
No matter where he was on the spectrum from playing himself to playing a completely different character, he could nonetheless say that acting holds a special place in his life as a natural-born entertainer.
In the limelight
Ricci Rivero has been on radars long before he had even stepped foot in front of a camera not as a basketball player but as an actor. And he has his basketball career to thank for that.
At the end of 2017, Twitter Philippines released a list that named Ricci Rivero the most-Tweeted Filipino athlete, edging out other icons such as Manny Pacquiao and Alyssa Valdez. At the time, Ricci, who was already a UAAP champion, had just finished playing his second season for the DLSU Green Archers.
“Medyo nasasagot ko pa ‘yung sa Twitter in the early days, kasi doon din talaga nag-boom ang name ko, and I think sobrang big part ang UAAP, kasi every game, may mga paguusapan ang mga nanonood,” he explained.
But ever since then, the momentum of his popularity continued and even grew. In fact, just last year, Ricci was hailed the most-searched male personality on Google in the Philippines. As for this, he could not really explain why or how he might have reached this level of popularity, especially on the most widely used search engines, but he expresses that he is truly grateful for those who have been a part of helping him grow.
Yet, of course, being in the spotlight comes with its own challenges. He knows this, perhaps better than most people. On Instagram alone, Ricci Rivero has now amassed more than one million followers — a lot of eyes are on him, and he admitted that he sees this as a big responsibility.
But, he definitely does his best to take this responsibility in stride, no matter what is thrown his way. Recently, Ricci has been dealing with his own struggles that have been garnering a lot of public attention. But instead of rebutting the public’s opinions of him, which is an easy route to take especially on social media, he prefers to handle his personal matters with deeper consideration.
Regardless of public opinion, what some people don’t know is that he works hard to make sure that the attention doesn’t get into his head.
“I don’t want [the spotlight] to get into my head. My parents always teach us to remain grounded despite any achievements. We celebrate small wins and we learn from every failure. The public might be talking about me or setting their eyes on me but at the end of the day, I go home to my family as a normal Ricci.”
When the spotlight is off
As a public figure, not everyone gets to see what he refers to as, normal Ricci, especially as he is very intentional about his personal life. The Filipino star still does what he can to keep the intimate details about his life to himself.
“I try to keep my circle small,” he told The GAME, and this may be because he grew up very close to his family and cherishes their closeness.
“When we were kids, me and my brothers had our room for ourselves, but we would tend to sleep in the room of my parents,” he shared. “Iba din ‘yung nakasanayan namin na magkakasama kaming lahat lagi.”
As a close-knit family comprised of seven brothers, they would spend a lot of time together, especially with some of them opting to share one room with their parents. Ricci shared that as kids, they all used to watch classic Filipino movies and soap operas together, even naming Marina as an example of a telenovela they were fond of.
Apart from this, they would also enjoy other types of shows and movies. “Yung mga shows ni Dolphy before, parang natatawa kami kasi all boys kami.”
Sharing classic Filipino movies and shows with his family as a way to bond — it’s easy to see how Ricci developed a passion for the filmmaking industry. But his bond with his family also goes beyond that and continues to grow even as he explores the early stages of adulthood.
His older brother, Prince Rivero, also a former UAAP star, has recently become a father, and Ricci has been very hands-on as a new uncle to his nephew. Frequently making the time to bond with the newest member of their family comes naturally to Ricci, especially given his role as a sibling from a young age.
“Ever since we were kids, mas nandodoon ako kay mom, na parang, ‘sige bubuhatin ko sila while you do these things’ — things like that,” he reflected. “Mas naglalagay ako ng time sa younger brothers ko.”
Indeed, family is very important to Ricci. Spending time with the individuals he loves most and those who are in his small circle is one of the things he enjoys doing, especially when he has time off from the court or from the set. He expresses that he always enjoys giving back to those who have helped him lay the foundations of his growth as an individual.
Coming of age
Of course, we have a long way to go before we hear the last of Ricci Rivero, whether it’s on the court or on the big screen, even though we have still yet to see what’s in store for him in the near future.
Without divulging too much, he shared with The GAME some insights into what might be on the horizon for his basketball career, “Right now, I’m not yet sure yet, because there are opportunities, pero wala pa kami sa yes or no.
“I’m still trying and looking to play abroad.”
No matter what cross-overs Ricci might have in his life, it is apparent that he is a basketball player through and through, and he is pouring a lot of his efforts and energy into coming back to the court. After all, he has just turned 25 years old, so there is still a lot of game for him to play.
But even though some people may view him as a basketball player, and some may see him as a budding actor, he is only 25 and still figuring things out for himself. Yet, he is already able to view himself past his occupation and past all the perceptions the public may have about him. Instead, he sees himself based on how he has touched the lives around him.
“I’m blessed that at 25, I was able to make a lot of people happy, maybe by inspiring them somehow, be it through sports or through showbiz,” he expressed.
“I am honored to have entertained them in one way or another. I hope as I age I get to touch more lives and make them prouder. I will always be a work in progress.”
Just like anyone else his age, Ricci Rivero is still figuring things out, and he braves the fact that he will always be figuring things out, ever-changing, and ever-growing.
“While life gets complicated as you grow older, as you become successful, I never forget to look back from where it all started. I keep in mind my simple dreams and those people who were and are there when the spotlight is off.”
Photography VYN RADOVAN
Art Direction MARC YELLOW and KARLOTA TUAZON
Grooming CATS DEL ROSARIO
Styling TON LAO
Sittings Editor JAMES CRUZ
Shoot Coordination TONI MENDOZA
Special Thanks VIRTUAL PLAYGROUND and MARK SALAMAT
Shot on Location SOMERSET MILLENNIUM MAKATI