THE GAME 2022 July Web L Basketball 1

Shooting for glory: The religion that is Filipino basketball

Basketball has been the Philippines’ favorite for years. But even so, our players and teams still have room to grow beyond our local courts.

Basketball has been the Philippines’ most beloved sport. You can tell by the fully packed PBA Finals games, the love for UAAP basketball players, and even the countless pick-up games happening right now (maybe you have one coming up too).

On an international level, our country’s love for the sport does show, especially within Southeast Asia. But beyond our region, we still have progress to be made.

On the global court
The Philippines' basketball medals from 2012 to 2022.

The Philippines has dominated the basketball scene in Southeast Asia for a long time, picking up gold medals and silvers in many tournaments. 10 of our regional medals were won in the Southeast Asian Games and five of them from Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) tournaments.

In the SEA Games, our men’s basketball team holds the most gold medals by far with a total of 18. This is why the Gilas Pilipinas team has been considered the kings of Southeast Asia.

Outside the region, however, our medal count dwindles. We have competed around the entire world in FIBA tournaments like the Asia Cup, the Asia Challenge, and even the coveted World Cup. But, we’ve only tallied three medals in total from these tournaments in the last ten years.

But, the Philippines also competes in the Williams Jones Cup. This is an international basketball tournament, and while it isn’t as prestigious as the World Cup or the Olympics, over twenty countries compete. The Philippines has won six gold, one silver, and three bronze medals in the tournament, second only to the United States.

Basketball in the Philippines never loses its charm. With the love and support from the Filipino people, our local foundations remain strong and could one day push us into making our mark on the global level.

Homecourt advantage

Unsurprisingly, basketball has the most leagues in the Philippines compared to any other sport. But it might surprise you to find out just how many leagues we have. 

Just in the last ten years, the country recognizes seven professional leagues and eight collegiate leagues. That doesn’t even account for the amateur and 3×3 leagues that have been popping up more recently. 

While there are multiple leagues in the country, the people still have their favorites. The PBA is one of, if not the most popular of them all. They recorded 39 million views in their 2022 season.

On top of that, college-level basketball thrives just as much too. Just this year, over four million fans tuned in to watch UP defeat ADMU in game three of the UAAP Finals. 

What else is there to say other than we just really love basketball? But, it’s not just the sport we love. It’s the people too. 

Star athletes

There are almost too many amazing athletes that have graced our courts to name. From iconic players like Benjie Paras, James Yap, and Jimmy Alapag, to this generation’s household names like Thirdy Ravena, Jeron Teng, and June Mar Fajardo. Their popularity is a true marker of their skills. 

And of course, we can’t forget about our equally talented women. Their recent gold medal in the 2021 SEA Games showed that, just like their male counterparts, they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. With Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, and Trina Guytingco adding to the scoreboard, it isn’t hard to see that talent runs in the country. 

What’s next?

Basketball holds a dominant hand in the Philippines, and our teams are in the top tier in the region. But, there’s still some space for history to be made across Asia, and then, across the world. 

While currently only 34th in the FIBA World Rankings, the opportunities to climb the ladder are ahead of us. Later this month, we will be competing in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

Although the Philippines has already secured its spot in the 2023 Basketball World Cup, the qualifiers will be the perfect place to stack ourselves up for the competition. After all, previous attempts at the World Cup Title have shown that the global competition is fierce. 

While the road is long, the passion runs deep, from our players to our fans. It may not be easy buckets for our talented roster, but one thing is certain: it will be easy to lace up the support.