Filipino sports fans were spoiled this year, as the country got to witness many unforgettable moments from their favorite athletes.
2023 has been filled with unforgettable moments for sports fans in the Philippines. With so many historic events all in one year, it became almost hard to keep up with all of our favorite athletes and sports. But in the end, it was all worth it, because this year may have been a huge banner year for the Philippine sports community.
World Cup wins, historic debuts, a whole host of firsts, and many more — here are seven of the Philippines’ most memorable sports moments in 2023.
Kai Sotto’s Summer League debut
As a basketball-obsessed nation, we’ve long been waiting for a homegrown Filipino who might one day play in the NBA, and this year, we got a little taste of what that might be like when Kai Sotto played for the Orlando Magic in the NBA Summer League last July.
After sitting out the Magic’s first three Summer League games, the 21-year-old finally got the chance to shine against the Portland Trail Blazers and in his 13 minutes on the court, he recorded six points, four rebounds, and three blocks. Of course, Filipinos were raving about Kai Sotto nonstop over the next few days, but it wasn’t just them — many people from the global basketball community were, too.
Jordan Clarkson’s World Cup revenge
The Philippines’ hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup is an entirely unforgettable sports event for the Philippines on its own, but one moment in particular truly stood out — Gilas’ last game of the tournament.
Throughout their World Cup run, Gilas Pilipinas truly struggled and despite playing at home, they went through the entire group stage winless. However, they still managed to end on a high note to lift the spirits of the home crowd. Facing China, Jordan Clarkson gave the Filipino basketball community a performance to remember, going on a wild run. Out of his 34 total points, he scored 24 in the third quarter alone to give the Philippines the lead and bring the team to their first and only win in the World Cup.
Creamline on top (again)
As the saying goes, the cream always rises to the top. This saying rings true for the queens of the Premier Volleyball League, the Creamline Cool Smashers.
In a best-of-three finals series, the Cool Smashers kept their composure to make sure there was no Game 3. Taking the title with wins in the first two games, Creamline claimed their second straight All-Filipino title for 2023.
This championship win — the seventh in the iconic PVL team’s history — was a marker of how beloved volleyball has become in the Philippines. Game 2 of the finals set a volleyball crowd record, as 24,459 fans flocked to Araneta Coliseum to witness the five-set match.
At the center of this championship story was Alyssa Valdez, who took charge and brought the final two hits that ended the series, and was finally able to replace her Araneta heartbreak in 2016 when her Ateneo team lost to La Salle in the UAAP finals. To seal the win for Creamline’s seventh title is something she will cherish forever.
San Beda’s incredible Game 3 run
San Beda is back on top.
The San Beda Red Lions triumphed over the Mapua Cardinals in Game 3 of the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball finals series to win their first title since their three-peat from 2016 to 2018, and their 23rd title overall. But apart from the numbers, what made this moment truly memorable was the way the Lions came back.
In the fourth quarter, San Beds was still down by four points. However, after Yuki Andrada sank a three-pointer, the Lions’ momentum was unstoppable. The team went on a 16-5 run to overcome the Cardinals, 76-66. And this did not only mark a fourth-quarter comeback — this also was a comeback from the 1991 finals, where San Beda lost to Mapua in three games. They turned the tables this time around, and they did so in front of 23,077 fans.
EJ Obiena’s Asian Games leap
EJ Obiena’s 2023 season was full of incredible moments worthy of making this list, but his Asian Games performance may encapsulate everything he’s worked for the entire year and is one of the Philippines’ most talked-about moments from the year.
Before this year’s Asian Games, the last time a Filipino won a medal in the tournament for track and field was in 1994, and the hopes of breaking that streak were placed upon World No. 2 pole vaulter, EJ Obiena. But after clearing 5.9 meters, he won the Philippines’ first gold medal in the 19th Asian Games, ended the country’s track and field medal drought, and even set a new meet record.
This brought a great deal of pride to the Filipino sports community.
The Green Archers rediscover UAAP glory
The De La Salle University Green Archers’ UAAP Season 86 championship was not just a college basketball win — it is arguably one of the biggest comeback stories in Philippine sports of the year.
After starting off the finals series with an emphatic 30-point loss to the UP Fighting Maroons, many were quick to count out the Green Archers and it was widely believed that UP would take the title back to their side of Katipunan. However, DLSU came back in a big way, with a 22-point win in Game 2. The playing field was leveled once again. But in Game 3, it was the Archers who stuck together, played with confidence, and tightened up their defense to keep the Maroons at bay and win their first UAAP title since 2016.
It was a finals series that no one could stop talking about and is definitely going to be remembered for a very long time.
Gilas’ Asian Games triumph
After a lackluster run at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the Asian Games was a chance for Gilas Pilipinas to redeem themselves by bringing the Philippines back to the top of Asia. And that’s exactly what they did.
In the semifinals of the basketball tournament, Gilas faced familiar foes China, who had a significant 18-point lead over the Philippines at halftime. However, it was Justin Brownlee to the rescue as he spent the second half sending shot after shot until finally, the Gilas men had taken the lead with less than 30 seconds left to play. This comeback was huge, and it was arguably an even better story than their final game against Jordan.
Gilas Pilipinas’ run at the Asian Games is one that basketball fans in the Philippines will remember for a long time, especially as it put them back on the top of the continent, and it marked the country’s first basketball gold since 1962.
The Filipinas’ World Cup win
It was memorable enough getting to hear the Philippine national anthem at a football World Cup for the first time in history when the Filipinas made their debut this year. But a victory? That made the team’s campaign all the more historic and unforgettable.
Facing tournament co-hosts New Zealand in the group stage of the Women’s World Cup, the Filipinas were the underdogs. But that didn’t matter to them. They were ready to crash the party. Sarina Bolden scored the Philippines’ first-ever World Cup goal in the first half which sent the team and Filipino fans around the world into a moment of pure joy. The team rallied to keep the home team at bay throughout the rest of the nail-biting 90 minutes to walk away with a 1-0 victory.
Of all the Philippines’ memorable sports moments from 2023 — and there were many to choose from — the Filipinas’ historic win at the Women’s World Cup has to be at the top of the list.
Banner images from EJ Obiena, adidas, and Jordan Clarkson on Instagram.