Philippine Basketball, now spearheaded by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), proved that the pains of undertaking a national basketball program are worth all the effort in gaining back the respectability that the basketball-crazed country once commanded. After the recent staging of the 2010 FIBA World Basketball Championships, the latest FIBA World rankings has been released anew. RP Men’s Basketball now ranks 53rd in the World and 12th in Asia after climbing up three places in the rankings.
➤ It is a stark contrast from when the Philippines was stagnant and drowning in the rankings, as it was erstwhile managed by the controversial Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP). In 2005, the nation was ranked 65th in the World and 18th in Asia. Ridiculous, knowing that RP basketball is nowhere at that level.
➤ Though Philippines basketball has got a long uphill climb in the rankings, the current improvement in regional standings is commendable. SBP is ever present in all regional basketball tournaments, which includes not only the Men’s basketball but the Youth and Women’s as well. Even delegates of World basketball power Serbia is impressed in the current state of our national basketball program.
➤ Yes, we could all take this new development than allow an alien in Graham Lim and the BAP once again litter the national hoops scene. No more rag-tag teams and no-name players. No more to whipping boys and disrespect.
➤ BAP was like an ogre unleashed to devour anyone on its’ path. It was a nightmare for Philippine basketball.
➤ For the uninitiated, it is good to read a few BAP horror stories. Not too long ago, BAP formed a commercially sponsored team bound for SEA Games 2005 which horribly lost to former Parañaque Vice Mayor Anjo Yllana’s rag-tag team in the NBC pre-finals. Yllana even teased with gusto the national team in a noontime television program. His team was a concoction of politicians, former professional players, celebrities and ordinary weekend warriors assembled weeks before the tournament. It was so much of a viral news that it stirred the nation into a frenzy. This dilemma caught the attention of the Basketball stakeholders in the country and questioned the capability of BAP to form national teams.
➤ Months later, to show its unnerving defiance it installed Boysie Zamar as head coach of SEABA RP team after rejecting proposals by POC to make Chot Reyes coach of RP five. Zamar was the very same mentor of that infamous SEA Games team.
➤ It was an eye-opener for those who supported the BAP’s cause. Some said it was too late to regain respect for Philippine basketball. Left unchecked, BAP had already wreaked havoc for so many years. Yet, it was only the gist of the story.
➤ One bland caffeine shot by BAP was the 15th place finish of Cebuana Lhuiller in the prestigious 2003 FIBA-Asia Championships which featured 16 national teams. The catch was that RP must secure a top-two berth in the upcoming SEABA Championships to even qualify for the FIBA-Asia Championships 2005.
➤ Through BAP’s leadership, Lhuiller also manned the Philippine squad which figured in a terrible 8th place finish in 2004 William Jones Cup out of nine teams all-in-all. They lost their games with an average margin of 20 points or more.
➤ To add another stain, BAP changed shoes and let Cebuana Lhuiller team rest to pave the way to the international entry of Philippine College of Criminology (PCC) varsity team to the 2004 FIBA Stankovic Cup. The result: RP was massacred, finished 8th out of 8 teams and lost all the games with an average margin of fewer than 40 points. Hell, we even lost to India by 18.
➤ The list of horrific achievements goes on. The last stand of BAP was when it took hostage the nation as it created unscrupulous tales to discount the formation of another national basketball organization. It was in 2005 that the basketball stakeholders no longer wanted to tolerate BAP’s grandstanding. However, BAP never wanted to let go of its years of tyranny and shady deals. Still a recognized entity than to FIBA, the BAP caused the national team to be suspended in 2005. It effectively terminated any chances for the nation to join any FIBA sanctioned tournament.
➤ PBA had a ready All-Pro national team prepared for FIBA Asia Championships. The problem was, they were not allowed to play anywhere FIBA had authority. The PBA-formed RP Team then was a strong contender for at least the top five team slots in any Asian tournament. Because of the suspension, the nationals were not given the green light and seated out the FIBA Asia 2005 tilt and the Asian Games basketball the following year.
➤ This was when the call for the reinstatement for Philippine Basketball was heeded. This author, together with several Basketball online forums members and social communities of concerned Filipinos, started the Signature Campaign of 2005 so that FIBA will allow the Philippines to play basketball again in all its’ sanctioned tourneys. This campaign which included this website PhilippineBasketballTeam, and other sites like MyPBA, Interbasket, InTheZone, PinoyExchange and several notable personalities like Patricia Hizon and others, expressed their support for the Philippine basketball as a whole.
➤ In March 2007, FIBA reinstated the Philippines with the merger of BAP and SBP. It was a blessing in disguise that through the power struggles of the two organizations, the BAP was permanently ousted of its’ grip in Philippines basketball. This came in conjunction with the deportation of BAP kingpin Graham Lim, a Chinese national who manhandled and disfigured RP basketball for a very long time. BAP still tried to make a case for itself in the eyes of FIBA in 2009 but SBP eventually wrestled the decision. Like worms, BAP took the battle to the Philippine courts but to no avail. It was also only later of this year that the Supreme Court adjudged with finality the validity of SBP’s claim as the national basketball authority.
➤ With all the chaos that the Philippine basketball went through, one may wonder if it’s still possible to regain lost glory. Though the SBP is still laying down most of the groundwork, the result of its’ labor is already satisfactory if not outright exemplary.
➤ In 2007 Tokushima FIBA Asia, Team Pilipinas only lost by a few points against fated finalists Iran NT. The latest was a fourth place finish of Smart Gilas Pilipinas in the 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup. It could have been higher if not for the one-point loss against eventual champions Lebanon. Although the Philippines has yet to capture another medal either in FIBA Asia and the Asian Games basketball after 1998, all the other Asian contenders know that RP is now a team to beat. Even NBA legend Bill Walton once said that the Philippines is the darkhorse of Asia. The Philippine team is now earning back that respect from its’ perennial rivals, even though it has yet to achieve its’ ultimate goal of Worlds and Olympics appearance.
➤ The Women’s and the RP Youth basketball is also currently making waves. It was only early this year that RP youth placed ninth in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Though they were relegated to the classification phase, they did not bow out without scaring World superpowers Spain and Croatia by a losing margin of only two points average.
➤ Going back to the rankings, some points in the ranking itself is confusing. It’s funny how non-basketball countries like India and Kuwait are placed a notch higher than the Philippines. We should at least be placed in the fifth or sixth position though it would be subject to debate. But a 12th place rank below countries one which is known more for cricket is surprising. As explained in his twitter message, SBP President Noli Eala mentioned that the algorithm for rank calculation by FIBA is computed using two Olympics cycle. “So d fruits of our labor in all genders, ages and categories will come to fruition in 2012 when we complete another full cycle.”, stated Eala.
➤ The FIBA ranking itself is not the ultimate gauge of RP basketball. However, it is a testament to the continuing progress of Philippine basketball as a whole, both locally and internationally. With a new found stature SBP can stir the Philippines back into Asian supremacy. With power, it can uplift RP, and with the same power, it can bring the favorite national sport back to days of gloom. One can only hope that the current organization will not fall into the same trap that the BAP succumbed into. After all, if abused, power corrupts us all.