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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Basketball in the Philippines Part 2

Of all the sports in the world, there is no other sport more popular and more embraced by the Filipino people, other than basketball. All throughout Asia, Soccer or Football has been the most recognized sport, but in the Philippines, basketball has been the frenzied sport ever since. Filipinos just crave for playing basketball. In almost every street or corner of the country, one can find basketball courts of different looks and sizes, signifying the Filipinos’ love for the sport and making the Philippines unique. Most of the Filipino youth aspire to be basketball players and dream to make it in the big time professional leagues or even just at the collegiate level. This love for basketball did not just sprung out of the Filipino people, it transpired gradually through the years.

The Americans through the YMCA or the Young Men’s Christian Association introduced basketball in the Philippines. Around 1898-1900, basketball was launched in the country. Being just a newly invented sport back then, the Philippines was considered as one of the earliest basketball playing countries around the world. As early as 1910 up to the 1930s the Philippines ruled over the Far Eastern Games basketball tournament, capturing 9 out of 10 basketball championships. The first ever Far Eastern Championship Games, a precursor to the Asian Games was held in Manila in 1913 and the first ever Philippine Basketball National team won the coveted gold medal. In 1919 and 1925, the Far Eastern Games was held again in Manila, and the country captured the gold medal for the third and fourth time. 1934 was the final Far Eastern Games, and it took place in Manila. The country for the 9th time won the basketball championship. The 1934 Far Eastern Games was the final event of the games because after it, wars between Asian countries erupted. During the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the country even participated in the basketball event and had a 4-1 record after bowing out to the United States in the quarterfinals.

Then came the Golden Era, the 1950s. This period cemented the Philippines’ basketball fame all over Asia by winning Asian Basketball gold medals in the 1951, 1954 and 1958 Asian Games. Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga, also named as “the Big Difference” became the country’s main man and dominated over other Asian players. He is considered as one of the greatest players of the country and of Asia. During the 1960s, the Philippines won the first ever FIBA Asian Championships. The Philippines also captured the 1962 Asian Games gold medal. And in the 1963 FIBA Asian Championships, the country retained the championship.  This just proves that the Philippines is not just a pushover in the world of basketball. The country has proven numerous times that Filipinos are worthy opponents and formidable foes in International Basketball competitions. The consecutive championships and relentless domination during the early parts of the century shaped the Philippines as a basketball powerhouse in the continent.

As early as 1924, the NCAA or the National Collegiate Athletic Association has put basketball as part of a list of sports that collegiate schools compete in. The first ever Basketball Champions of the NCAA was the University of the Philippines. 1938 saw the rise of a new Athletic Association, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, or the UAAP.  The Far Eastern University won the first ever basketball championship of the UAAP. These athletic associations thru the years has kept the relentless tradition of pitting together collegiate schools and universities and battling it all out of for basketball glory and alma mater pride. Basketball became more popular and love for the sport has risen to a higher level. 1938 also gave birth to the first ever commercial basketball league named MICAA, or the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association.

After MICAA’s descend, the Basketball Association of the Philippines, or BAP, formed the PBA. The Philippine Basketball Association became the first ever Professional Basketball League in Asia, and second in the world, next only to the NBA, or the National Basketball Association. The emergence of the PBA shouldered the fame of basketball in the country. April 9, 1975 was the date of the first ever game. As soon as Gregorio “Joy” Dionisio put the ball inside the ring for the first ever basket in the history of the PBA, the Filipinos already knew that basketball would reach a much even higher level within the country. Basketball indeed reached new heights, due to the commercialization and media broadcasting of the PBA. More Filipinos became more exposed to the sport. Basketball became the most crazed sport and materialized as the nation’s sensation.

After the retirement of “the Big Difference”, Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga in the 1960s, the country’s basketball prowess weakened, but the country still became competitive contenders. In the 1965 FIBA Asian Championships, the country posted a 9-0 record and won the gold medal, posting the Philippines’ 3rd Championship in the history of the event. In the first ever Southeast Asian Games, or SEA Games held in 1977, the country won the first ever gold medal in basketball and has never let go of the gold in every SEA Games ever since.

1981 was the year when the Philippines won the championship at the 5th Jones Cup that was held in Taiwan. In 1984, the San Miguel Philippines/Northern Consolidated basketball squad won the FIBA Asia Club Championships and earned a ticket to play at the 1985 FIBA World Club Championships that was held at Spain. Led by Hector “the Director” Calma, “the Skywalker” Samboy Lim, and “the Triggerman” Allan Caidic, the Philippines placed third and won the Bronze Medal. Also in 1985, the country captured the 9th Jones Cup championship after triumphing over the United States with a score of 108-100 in the championship game. In 1986, the country captured the bronze medal in the Asian Games, after losing to South Korea in a dramatic fashion. 1990 saw the silver medal conquest in the Asian Games held in Beijing, China, of the first ever Philippine National basketball team that was composed of professional players from the PBA. Considered as the “Philippines Dream Team”, the 1990 Asian Games Team was composed of future PBA Hall of Famers, with the likes of Alvin “the Captain” Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, “the Tower of Power” Benjie Paras, “El Presidente” Ramon Fernandez, Hector Calma, and “the Skywalker” Samboy Lim, who became included in the Asian Games Mythical Selection, being one of the top 5 players in the basketball event.

The 1994 Philippine Basketball Team Selection for the Asian Games captured 4th place, while the 1998 Philippine Centennial Team won the bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games held in Bangkok, Thailand. The Centennial Team also won the Championship of the 21st Jones Cup in 1998, by beating Chinese Taipei. In 2002, the Philippine National Team placed 4th in the Asian Games despite having powerhouse Fil-Am Players. The country lost to China, South Korea, and Kazakhstan. All the championships and medals won throughout the years makes the Philippines a notable opponent in the sport of basketball. The sport has become a national phenomenon. Filipinos crave for bringing back the glory and the pride of Philippine Basketball in the International stage.

The country has hosted numerous basketball tournaments through the years. The first ever Far Eastern Championships that was in 1913, was held in Manila. In 1919, 1925, and 1934, Manila also became host in the Far Eastern Championships.  During the 1954, the country hosted the Asian Games.  In 1960, the country also hosted the Asian Basketball Confederation. 1962 was one of the most memorable years of Philippine basketball, because it’s the year where the FIBA suspended the Philippines for the very first time due to President Diosdado Macapagal’s refusal to issue visas to players from communist countries. The Philippines lost the privilege of hosting the FIBA World Championships. In 1973, the country hosted the FIBA Asian Championships. In 1978, the Philippines obtained the privilege to host the FIBA World Championships.  All these hosting of different basketball tournaments through the years show that the country is internationally recognized as a basketball hotspot in the world. The Philippines is one of the most basketball-crazed countries in the world, which shows the countries potential of hosting other future basketball tournaments.

The FIBA, or the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur, is the governing body of all the international basketball competitions. The Philippines, through the Basketball Association of the Philippines joined the FIBA in 1936. Through the FIBA, International issues in basketball are given answers and proper suspensions. Just recently, for the third time, the Philippines had been suspended by the FIBA due to the POC or Philippine Olympic Committee’s conflicts with the BAP. The POC suspended the BAP because of its alleged agendas and weak capability to develop the country into a powerhouse in Asia. Due to this, the FIBA suspended the country from playing in any FIBA-sanctioned competitions like the Asian Games, Olympic Games, FIBA World Championships, and the FIBA Asian Championships.

The suspension stayed for months and Philippine Basketball leaders remained silent for a resolution. The country’s status as invisible in international basketball competitions remained and other countries within the region grabbed the opportunity to develop. After some months, a joint communiqué have proposed to fix the problem. At the 2006 FIBA World Championships in Saitama, Japan, representatives from the BAP and Pilipinas Basketball separately talked with FIBA officials for a solution and to gain recognition. The answer would be, is to form a new basketball organization that would unite the country’s basketball stature. The new organization materialized as the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. On February 5, 2007, a unity congress took place and the FIBA Suspension was announced as being lifted from that day on. As part of the unity congress and the approval from both parties, the new name of the basketball organization became the SBP-BAP, or the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas-Basketball Association of the Philippines. Manny Pangilinan was named president of the organization which also holds notable personalities in the Board of Trustees and the Board of Executives, giving places for proper leaders of Philippine Basketball.

The FIBA’s lifting of suspension after two years of absence in the international scene of basketball calls for a resurgence of Philippine Basketball. The country has to prove once again that the quest for basketball fame and glory is always at hand. The resurgence of Philippine Basketball is starting to rise anew. After the suspension was lifted, the Philippines even volunteers to host any FIBA-sanctioned international competitions. The country is obsessed with basketball, and it is also craving for international basketball recognition. Hosting such international competitions will certainly help the resurgence of Philippine Basketball and testify the country’s craze and love for the sport. The country has the potential to showcase the world how basketball-frenzy the Filipinos are. A landmark for everything basketball looms in the horizon.

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