➤ Basketball was introduced to the Philippines in 1901, by members of the American YMCA. The Philippine Amateur Basketball League was established in 1910. After that, basketball became a nationally popular sport in the Pearl of the Orient Seas. What many people didn’t know or even heard of is that the Philippines was truly one of the global superpowers in international cage hoops in the past – during its’ prime.
➤ In the 1936 Berlin Olympiad where the RP Team placed fifth, Philippines defeated Mexico 32-30 in the second round and toppled Estonia 39-22 in the third round. In the classification round of the same tourney, the Filipinos defeated the highly touted powerhouse Italy 32-14 and romped past Uruguay 33-23. Curiously, the Philippine delegation never made it to the Medal round (due to a controversial ruling) although it had not lost to any team except to the United States with the score of 56-23.
➤ The Philippine Team was ably led by Ambrosio Padilla (team captain), who later became a senator; the 6’1″ Charles Borck, Jacinto Ciria Cruz, Primitivo Martinez, Jesus Marzan, Franco Marquicias, Fortunato Yambao, Amador Obondo, Bibjano Quano, and Johnny Worrel. Also, the same games were played in a lawn tennis court (which was terribly hampered by a bad rainy weather), and the awards were given by no less than Dr. James Naismith.
➤ During the 1948 London Olympics, the Philippines landed a 12th place finish. The RP team was bracketed to Group B in the eliminations and posted a win-loss record of 3-2. The Filipinos massacred Iraq 102-30, marched past Korea 35-33, and stomped down on China 51-32. It lost its’ elimination assignments to Chile 68-39 and was upset by Belgium 37-35. The Philippines figured in a five-way tie in the elimination round and was ejected from the medal-round because of the point system implemented. In the classification round (non-medal competition), Philippines defeated the recent Olympic champions Argentina with a 45-43 score but bowed down to Belgium 38-34 and Peru 40-29.
➤ The Philippines was tied for 9th place overall in the 1952 Olympiad. The Filipinos found themselves in Group B in the preliminary round with 2-0 win-loss record by blasting Israel 54-47 and Hungary 48-35. The Pinoys advanced to the main tournament and showed its’ might against Canada 81-65, but eventually lost to Argentina 85-59 and Brazil 71-52. The 1956 Melbourne Olympics saw the Philippines bracketed in Group A in the Elimination round and made a 2-1 win-loss performance to land in 7th place over-all. They defeated Thailand 55-44 and Japan 76-61 but horribly succumbed to the USA with a dismal 121-53. In the quarterfinals, the Philippines defeated France with a 65-58 beating but bowed again to the physically playing Uruguay 79-70 and Chile 88-69. In the non-medal round, the Philippines took a sweet revenge to Chile 75-68 but stumbled down to Bulgaria 80-70.
➤ An 11th place finish was the best the Philippines can offer in the 1960 Rome Olympics. In the eliminations, the Filipinos were bracketed to Group D and made a 1-2 win-loss record by defeating Spain 84-82, but lost to Poland 86-68 and Uruguay 80-76. In the classification round, the Pinoys posted a 2-1 win-loss slate by beating down Puerto Rico 82-80 and Bulgaria 2-0 (forfeited), and fell to Hungary 81-70. In the second classification round, the Philippines handily pounded their way through Mexico 65-64 but lost to France 122-75.
➤ In the 1954 World Basketball Championships in Brazil, the Philippines staged the greatest mark in the history of the basketball-crazed nation, by taking the Bronze Medal in a show of power. Overall, the Philippines posted a 5-2 win-loss record and fell behind eventual champions USA and silver medalists Brazil – the hometown favorite.
The USA had the biggest scare in the tournament when they faced squarely with the Filipinos. Opening play in the final round, the U.S. was given a run for its money by the Philippines. Trailing by just three points at the half, 25-22, the Philippines squad rallied at the start of the second half and took a 31-26 lead. However, the USA offense got rolling and with three minutes remaining the USA had control 49-30 before finally settling for a 56-43 victory. The 6-6 forward Kirby Minter led the USA offense with 15 points.
➤ Although the Americans managed to post a strong win-loss slate of 9-0, they will never forget their memorable encounter with the formidable Filipino squad. The Filipinos, on the other hand, was led by Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga – the team captain who won the Mythical Five award in the same tourney – for being the third highest individual scorer over-all.
➤ Loyzaga was also the first basketball player to be inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame. Also present in the line-up were Lauro Mumar, Florentino Bautista, Francisco Rabat, Benjamin Francisco, and the 6’2 Mariano Tolentino. The Philippines beat the favored Uruguay team, 67-63, to clinch the Bronze Medal on November 5, 1954.
➤ This mighty feat until now, remains unsurpassed in the realms of Philippine Basketball and Asia as a whole.