PUSO! : Filipinos and Basketball

Filipinos are everywhere when you talk about basketball.  From the NBA, to the local basketball scenes and even on the inter-barangay tournaments, you cannot stop Filipinos from going gaga over this sport. Outside the cheers for every fancy handles, flashy drive and thunderous dunks, Filipinos’ enthusiasm over this sport goes beyond the court and even spread to every NBA game analysis and GOAT debate on the social media. Basketball is said to be a game of height. And some people say, this is not the sports for Filipinos whose average height is just about 5 foot and 4 inches. Well, most ballers, whether professional players or just usual bystanders on every makeshift courts, beg to disagree. It is true that this game is made for the giants, but for them, the response is simple, referring to a popular Filipino saying, “Walang malaking nakapupuwing.”

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In the Philippines, basketball is a religion. It is everywhere: from farms and small fishing villages, gritty corners of the streets in the metro, shanty areas of Tondo and Payatas and even on every newsfeed of each 47 million Filipino Facebook users. There’s no place in the country where you will fail to see a basketball court. Whether, a full sized court, a half-court or even a makeshift one, as long as Filipinos got a ball and basketball ring, they’ll definitely showcase those “kyrie-esque” handles and Curry range sniping.

This love affair started when basketball was introduced to the Filipinos during the American occupation of the country. Since then, the Filipinos’ love for basketball grew and slowly took the form of the unique Pinoy passion for the sport that we are witnessing today. It became a way of life. It was ingrained deep within our culture and became a major part of every Filipino life. But what made Filipinos love this sport so much?

A ball and a Court then we’re all good

Basketball is easily playable since it requires little space, no maintenance, no expensive gears and no required number of players for a social game. Filipinos can play it one-on-one, 3×3 and the traditional 5-on-5 yet there will be no changesinh the intensity and grit on the way it is played. There are lots of makeshift courts, usually made from woods, scattered around every neighborhood.

Loving the “ooohs” and “aaahs

Whether you’re the one playing or the one watching, you would want to hear those exclamations of amusement. Basketball is a fast game and highly dynamic, tactical and entertaining. Vicious crosses, on-point sniping and posterizing dunks often get these kinds of reactions. However, what gets the loudest cheers from the crowd is when their teams go dirty and dive for the loose ball – sacrificing their bodies to save the possession that would set the table for a shot at the buzzer. Bang! Then the crowd will be erupting into an immeasurable decibel.

All is Well inside and outside the Court

Basketball unites the Filipinos same way as how Manny Pacquiao during his heyday unites this archipelago as one. From the farthest place in the north, Batanes to the last islands of Sulu in the south, you will always be welcomed to join the people watching local leagues on their televisions. Playing bare foot while wearing bahag or having a signature Air Jordan shoes and a MJ jersey will never matter to Filipinos. As long as you enjoy playing basketball, you’re all good to go. Basketball breaks social barriers. Whether, you’re a mere student or a CEO of a company, if it’s about basketball, no social stature is relevant.

It’s getting Ample Support

There’s probably no baranggay in the country that didn’t launch any basketball related program or organize any inter-barangay tournaments. Basketball is a sport that invites widespread participation from the grassroots level which staves off boredom for countless Filipino teenagers. It is also ingrained in the school system and local government campaigns which aims to make use of the sport as a way to teach values and discipline to the youth; help them avoid vices such as illegal drugs and committing petty crimes.

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Philippines’ governing body when it comes to basketball, SBP or Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas also executesa program for grassroots talents in a bid to develop potential athletes for international stints.

One word: PRIDE!

“And the curse of Korea is about to be broken here inside the MOA Arena” – Magoo Marjon

No better example would epitomize the sense of pride that every Filipino has towards basketball than the scenes during the endgame against South Korea. That game clinched a World Cup stint for the Philippines after 35 years during the 2013 edition of Fiba Asia Championships. Everyone is jumping up and down. Some were crying. Many are screaming their hearts out. Even those who are in front of their televisions screens were giggling at every made basket. And then there’s the buzzer, then the iconic line of the veteran commentator, Magoo Marjon as he declares on top of his lungs the end to the dreaded Korean curse. Tears started to fall as the confetti scatters all over the arena. Jimmy Alapag is a picture of leadership as Marc Pingris epitomizes the Gilas Pilipinas battlecry. And then the rest like many said, is history.

In the Philippines, basketball is a religion. It’s a way of life. It’s a bridge that connects each 7,107 island of this archipelago. Basketball is more than just a sport; it’s a testament of our character, pride and heart. This maybe is a big man’s game, but we got a big heart; or just as how many Filipino basketball fans scream it, “PUSO!”

Reynald is a thinker by day and a storyteller by night. His stories are told through his lenses and pens.

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