In honor of Heat coach Eric Spoelstra (and his Filipino descendancy), yesterday’s GrowthPlates ran a brief photo collage to capture the hoops passion of the Filipino people, and the beautifully fervent bricolage of their children.
Amazingly, basketball has been in the Phillipines since 1898, all but arriving with Admiral Dewey and USS Olympia at the Battle of Manila Bay.
(Philadelphians might recognize the Olympia as seen from it’s current home at Penns Landing….)
The sport quickly took root in this pacific style and a long love affair commenced, vividly chronicled in Rafe Bartholomews, romantic, Pacific Rims
In the first half go the 20th century, the Phillipines established itself as the definitive Basketball Power of the Asian world, earning 9 Eastern Games (the precursor to the Asian Games) Gold Medals, and 1 Silver before the Japanese invasion of China suspending international play.
International success continued in the Post War period, where despite an overwhelming height disadvantage the Phillipines team earned the a surprise bronze medal in the 1954 World Basketball championships in Rio De Janiero. This remains the best finish by an Asian nation in global basketball competition.
The team was led by 6’3 Center Carlos “Caloy” Loyzaga, still considered to be the greatest Filipino player of all time.
Semi pro ball started in the 1950’s maturing into Asia’s first fully professional league, The Phillipine Basketball Asssociation, in 1975.
Here is the ceremonial tip-off of the league, with Ms. PBA, Mia Montemayor presiding.
And this amazing 1979 Exhibition between Elvin Hayes/Wes Unseld lead Washington Bullets, and the All Stars of the PBA. 133 to 123 shoot-out.
here is a taste of dervish drives and impossible finishes of the PBA’s glory years, led by the “Dr. J of the Philipines”, Samboy “Skywalker” Lim
And let’s not forget the playmaking of “the Big J” Robert Jaworski, a Jason Kidd like big point gaurd (6’1) whose amateur and pro career lasted to the age of 50. retiring from basketball to join the Philippine Senate in 1997.
Here’s a career retrospective of Jaworski…
Global. Hoops. Communion.