Road to redemption

Basketball has been loved by Filipinos from all walks of life from the time it was introduced by the Americans in the early 20th century. History tells us that Philippines first participated in international basketball in the Far Eastern Championship Games in 1913. The Filipinos had been dominating  the game in the six nation athletic meet from its inception until its last edition in 1934.

In 1936, the Philippines first participated in the Olympics at Berlin in Germany finishing at fifth place from a pool of 23 counties worldwide. Likewise, it finished third in the 1954 World Championship in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. To date, these are the best records that any Asian country has ever accomplished at the world stage.

At the Asian level, Philippines used to dominate the Asian Basketball Championship, the predecessor of the FIBA-Asia Championship. On seven occasions from 1960 to 1973, the Philippine team would up gold four times and ended up second twice. Likewise, at the Asian Games, the Filipinos won four straight gold medals from 1951 until 1962.

It all started in the 1970’s when the Filipinos’ performance in international basketball started to decline. It came to its lowest point in the middle of 1990s when the Philippines could not finish better than ninth place on four occasions from 1993-1999 in FIBA-Asia Championship. At the Asian Games, the Philippines could not surpassed its silver medal performance at  Beijing in 1990. The best it could accomplish was bronze medal in 1998 at Bangkok.

Basketball in the Philippines was on a backslide then. However, from 2005 until 2007, different stakeholders had been on a roller coaster ride forming a new federation to finally end decades of disappointment. In February 2007, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP)was formally established. It paves the way for the Philippines to regain its long lost glory in the game most Filipinos have been so passionate.

The new federation’s formation has been gradually producing results. At the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championship, the Philippines improved to ninth place from a fifteenth place finish in 2003, the last time it participated in that tournament. Besides, SBP revived the participation of the country in the youth competition in the U18 and U16 categories. In fact, the Phl U18 wound up seventh in 2008 from a dismal thirteenth in 2004. Two years later, the U18 team improved to the fifth spot. The U16 team, in the meantime, is the most impressive so far. In its maiden tournament in 2009 held in Johor Bahru in Malaysia, Team Pilipinas U16 almost made it to the finals but eventually settled for fourth place.

SBP is at the forefront in regaining our basketball supremacy in Asia. With the Philippines’ surging performance in the last three years of which the SBP is at the helm, we can truly say that the Filipinos are on the road to redemption in international basketball.

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