Jordan Clarkson in the Gilas Pilipinas jersey is an image now known to all Filipino basketball fans.
Jordan Clarkson is proud of his Filipino heritage. He expressed as much himself at the most recent NBA All-Star games saying, “I’m proud, wear it every day. My grandma, tattooed on my heart.”
The Utah Jazz player’s Filipino roots come from his maternal grandmother, who is from Bacolor, Pampanga. Although he was born and raised in the United States, he has always remained connected to his Filipino roots — and this was displayed when he represented Gilas Pilipinas at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The performances he put forth and the emotions he showed at the global tournament were not only fueled by his passion for basketball, but more than this was his pride for his country, wearing the Gilas Pilipinas jersey, and performing in front of the Philippines’ home crowds.
Ever since he first donned the flag, Clarkson has created many memorable moments for the team and for the many Filipino basketball fans. These are a few of our favorites.
His official Gilas Pilipinas debut
Talks about Jordan Clarkson joining the Philippine men’s national basketball team began as early as 2011, because of his Filipino heritage, but he only officially made his debut for Gilas Pilipinas in 2018 in the Asian Games as a naturalized player.
In his first two games wearing the Philippine jersey, he led the team’s scoring, recording 28 points against China and 25 points against South Korea. Though the games ended in losses, Clarkson’s numbers were a huge reason why the Philippines had stayed within striking range on both occasions.
In the fifth-place classification game, Jordan Clarkson again led the scoring, recording 29 points to help the Philippines overcome Syria, 109-55.
It was certainly a debut to remember, and he certainly did not disappoint, as an NBA player coming to represent the Philippines. And it was only the first of more to come.
(You can relive Jordan Clarkson’s Asian Games highlights here!)
His home-crowd debut
Although Jordan Clarkson made his Gilas Pilipinas debut in the 2018 Asian Games, the first time he played in front of a Filipino crowd was in 2022 during the FIBA Asian Qualifiers. It was worth the wait.
Over 19,000 Filipino fans crammed into the Mall of Asia Arena to see the NBA player make his debut in front of his home crowd, and Clarkson himself expressed that the energy of the crowd gave him the boost he needed to perform. He wound up scoring 23 points and recording five rebounds and six assists — definitely a first home game to remember. And what made this even more memorable was the fact that his performance helped Gilas bounce back from a loss to Lebanon with a huge 84-46 victory over Saudi Arabia.
Immediately, there seemed to be a connection between the fans and Clarkson, and this seemed to be just a sign of things to come with the NBA star on Gilas’ side, as the crowd eagerly looked forward to the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Popping off against China
It’s no secret that Gilas Pilipinas struggled during the 2023 FIBA World Cup. The team, despite playing on their home courts, suffered a winless group phase and failed to advance to the next stage of the tournament. It was a disappointing run, especially as the Philippines has the advantage of playing in front of their adoring fans. But, regardless of their previous performances, Jordan Clarkson made sure to end Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign on a high note.
Facing China in their final game in the World Cup, Jordan Clarkson gave the Gilas Pilipinas fans something huge to rave about. He went on an incredible run to score 34 points — 24 of which he scored just in the third quarter — to give Gilas the lead after they closed the first half behind China. From that point on, the energy had shifted, leading the team to their first and only win of the tournament.
It was a sweet finish to a rather bitter run, leaving Gilas fans still with immense pride as hosts of the global tournament, and we’ll always be grateful to Jordan Clarkson for coming through for our team.
The famous selfie
On the top of our list is not from his game highlights, not an explosive run, and not a breakout performance. It is simply a selfie — the selfie.
This selfie, taken by fellow Gilas Bobby Ray Parks Jr., is one of Gilas Pilipinas’ most popular photos. Right after their dominant win over Saudi Arabia in the FIBA Asia Qualifiers last August 2022, the Gilas men huddled together and savored the moment — a huge comeback victory in front of their home crowd — and immortalized it with a photo. What we love about this particular image is that it is nothing formal. It’s simply the Gilas men, filled with joy to be working together for their common goal: to bring pride to the country.
And this they did.
After the FIBA World Cup, Jordan Clarkson did not close the door on coming back to represent the Philippines again. Instead, he left it wide open, saying, “I still feel young. I’m still out here competing. I don’t think that’s my last performance in this jersey. I think I got more time and still can hoop… Hopefully down the line when that time comes around again, I’ll be able to put this jersey on and represent the country.”
Banner image from Jordan Clarkson on Instagram.