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Basketball in the Philippines – The Countrys Favourite Sport

Basketball in the Philippines was introduced by American teachers when the Philippines became a a colony of the United States following the Spanish-American War.

Through this article we look at the history of basketball within the Philippines and who were the main influencers of basketball within the Philippines.

History of Basketball in the Philippines

The Philippines were originally a Spanish colony however, following the Spanish-American War the Philippines were transferred to the Untied States. Although the Philippines became an independent country in 1946, the five decades of United States rule brought significant changes to the Philippines including the introduction of basketball.

Teachers who had traveled from America to the Philippines introduced basketball to the school system and the game of basketball began to spread across the nation.

Philippines Basketball in the Far Eastern Games

The Philippines basketball team took part in the Far Eastern Games which ran from 1913-1934. The Philippines were dominant in the games winning 9 Golds out of ten games. With 1921 being the only year when the Philippines Basketball team did not win the gold medal. 

YearHost CountryPosition
The legendary Philippine Basketball Team

Philippine Basketball in the Olympic Games

In 1936 basketball was listed as an Olympic sport for the first time. The Philippines entered a men’s basketball team for the games and finished fifth in the games following a 4-1 record. Their only loss coming against the United States of in the quarter finals of the competition. The Philippines beat the following teams on the way to the fifth position.

Philippines32 – 30Mexico
Philippines39 – 22 Estonia
Philippines23 – 56United States
Philippines34 – 14Italy
Philippines33 – 22Urug

The Berlin Olympics were the most successful Olympics for the Philippines. However, the Philippines continued to be represented in the Olympics and finished in the following places in the following Olympics:

1956 Olympics – Finished in 7th place;

1964 Olympics – Finished in 11th place;

1968 Olympics – Finished in 13th place;

1972 Olympics – Finished in 13th place;

Philippines Basketball at the Asian Games

In 1951 the first Asian games were held, and the Philippines entered a basketball team and ended up winning the gold medal.  The Philippines basketball team retained the Gold medal at the 1954 Asian Games. After the disappointment of the 1956 Olympic Games the Philippines bounced back in 1958 with another Asian Games Basketball medal. The Philippines won a gold medal again in 1962.

Philippines Basketball in the FIBA World Championship

The Philippines entered a basketball team into the FIBA World Championship which was held in Brazil in 1954. The Philippines obtained a bronze medal in the championship after finishing of a record of 6-3. To this dates the 1954 Philippine Basketball Team achieved the best finish by an Asian country in the FIBA World Championship tournament.

In 1962 the Philippines were going to host the FIBA World Championship. However, the Philippines refused basketball players from communist nations to be granted visas. Due to this the FIBA organisation suspended the Philippines from FIBA and moved the competition to previous hosts Brazil in 1963.

The amount of column inches the cancellation of the event got in newspapers was limited.

The Philippines went back to the FIBA Championship in 1974 and finished 13th. In 1978 the Philippines got to host the FIBA Championship. The Philippines kept attending the FIBA Championship and in 1985 the Philippines won the Bronze medal at the FIBA Championship in Spain.

Philippines in the FIBA Asia Championship

The Philippines won the first FIBA Asian Championship in 1961 and has continued success within this Championship. The Philippines won the Championship in 1963, 1967, 1973, 1984, 1996,1997.

Philippines Basketball in the South East Asia Games

The Philippines won the first ever South East Asia Games in basketball and won a second title shortly after. Gold medals followed in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007.

Philippine Suspension from FIBA

Although the Philippines enjoyed success on the basketball court there were issues off of the court. Most notably in 2005 when the Philippines were suspended. The reason for the suspension was due to the Philippine Olympic Committee who believed that the Philippines should be the number one team in Asia and there was not enough development of the national Philippine basketball team. Therefore, the Philippine Olympic Committee suspended the FIBA recognised basketball association in the Philippines and in return the Philippines national team was suspended from taking part in the following events, FIBA World Championship, FIBA Asia Championship, the Olympic Games and the Asian Games.

The impact of the Philippines being suspended was felt throughout Asia and the 2005 South Asian Games did not have basketball as an event due to the Philippine team being suspended.

The suspension was finally lifted in 2007 following the creation of a basketball association which FIBA approved of.

Has a Filipino ever played in the NBA?

Raymond Townsend was the first Filipino to play in the NBA. Townsend was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the 1978 NBA Draft. Townsend had previously played college ball at UCLA. Townsend finished his career with the Indian Pacers (my beloved team).

Jordan Clarkson is the second Filipino American to play in the NBA. Clarkson was picked at the 46th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. by the Washington Wizards and was traded straight away to the La Lakers. Although Clarkson had a successful spell with the Lakers he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.

Clarkson plays for the Philippine national team as he has held a Philippine passport since he was twelve years old.

NBA All Stars v Philippine All Stars

It is a little known fact outside of the Philippines that an NBA All Stars team goes to the Philippines to play games occasionally against the Philippine All Stars. These are no walkovers, in 1996 Dennis Rodman turned up to the game and the NBA stars were beaten comfortably.

In 2011, the stars that went to play the Philippine All Stars were players such James Harden, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul etc. These games are taken seriously.