Over the past decade, the NBA has opened up its schedule to include several games overseas. Aside from the occasional regular season game in London, most of these games are preseason contests with no real effect on the schedule. They're largely marketing opportunities, an effort to expand the league's global reach in countries with burgeoning basketball cultures. For the most part, the goal is growth.
The Philippines has not yet played host to one of these games, which is a shame. Unlike some of these countries, basketball is their most popular sport by a wide margin. As discussed by Rafe Bartholomew in his book "Pacific Rims," basketball pervades every aspect of Filipino culture, from politics to income inequality to community life.
Yet the islands have never played host to any sort of official NBA contest even though the vast majority of the populace is absolutely nuts about the league. According to one report, though, that's about to change. From interaksyon.com (via PBT):
The SM Mall of Asia Arena will host the first-ever preseason exhibition game between two NBA teams in Philippine shores.
InterAKTV has learned that the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers are set to do battle at the venue on October 10.
A new conference has been scheduled on Tuesday to announce the details of the game. [...]
“Hans Sy was invited by Commissioner Stern during the All-Star Game, and Hans told the Commissioner that he has an arena that is suitable for hosting one of the NBA games,” said Junel Baculi, the athletic director of National University which is part of the SM Group. NU hosted this UAAP season, whose games were played at the MOA Arena.
The country has long been crazy about NBA basketball, but has not drawn consideration as a venue for the league’s games because of a lack of a suitable venue. With the state-of-the-art MOA Arena, that has changed.
While there has been no official confirmation of the plan, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard retweeted PBT's post, so it seems likely that this is for real. We reached out to the NBA for comment but have not yet received a response. We'll update you if we hear more details.
This is huge news for the Philippines, which previously had its biggest NBA-related game in 2011 when several big-name players participated in an all-star exhibition during the lockout. However, it's much different for the NBA to acknowledge the nation's fandom with a league-sanctioned game. It's a deserving honor for a huge group of people who obsess over basketball in all its forms.
There's some difference in comparison to other overseas games, then, because it's hard to imagine how the Philippines could possibly become more into basketball. In some ways, this game seems more like a reward for decades of support than an attempt to increase market share.
So good on the NBA, and congratulations to all the basketball fans in the Philippines. They absolutely earned this event.
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