NBA in the Philippines: Big, big, big

Enzo Flojo
The NBA finally found the perfect partner in SM and this only means good and BIG things for Filipino basketball fans.

CONFIRMED. NBA Asia's Scott Levy hands SM Group's Hans Sy an autographed jersey of the Indiana Pacers' Danny Granger. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines — By now, everyone already knows about the biggest NBA development involving the Philippines – an actual NBA preseason game will be played here in Manila. James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and the rest of the Rockets will pit their skills against those of Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Paul George, and the rest of the Indiana Pacers.

As NBA Asia Senior VP and Managing Director Scott Levy said in my interview with him, “These are two exciting teams with some of the best young stars today.”

It’s a game sure to feature a ton of highlight reel material.


First NBA-sanctioned game since 1979

So, the real question is, why haven’t you filed your leave yet? Why haven’t you started saving up for the tickets yet? This is the first sanctioned NBA game in the Philippines since 1979 when the Washington Bullets walloped the PBA All-Stars at the Araneta Coliseum, 133-123.

I am 110% sure that this event will be a big shebang, at least if the BIG Announcement event today was to be any standard.

I walked into the Coral Gate of the SM Mall of Asia Arena expecting the usual drill for public relations occasions like this – registration, free meals, and then the big reveal. My excitement really stemmed from the fact that this was the first NBA press con I was attending – EVER. I already knew an NBA game would be played here. Heck, almost everyone in Manila who gave half a damn about NBA basketball knew it, too. We also knew who the teams would be.

We just wanted confirmation. We just wanted formality.

And, yeah, free lunch and SM/NBA loot bags never hurt anyone, right?

What greeted everyone, however, was a total production. There was an NBA photowall. The free food was actually quite good (I remember seeing a few guys go back for repeats!). The press con was held not in a room, but in the actual event bowl of the MOA Arena. The NU cheerdancers were present to open the program. Solar Sports covered it on TV, with veteran commentator Chiqui Reyes doing emcee duties. NBA Philippines presented SM Prime’s Hans Sy with an autographed Danny Granger jersey and the actual Spalding basketball that will be used in the game.


David Stern announced IT himself

For me, though, the most exciting things were the three video clips played on the MOA Arena’s imposing jumbotron. The first one was of David Stern formalizing the announcement and reminding everyone why the Philippines is an important NBA market (we actually have the most NBA fans outside of the United States, at least based on Facebook and Twitter data). The second clip had Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale describing how excited he is to come to Manila, and the last one was a teaser that contained highlights from several Rockets and Pacers. This trio of clips was a nice touch that added even more legitimacy to the whole event, while also upping the excitement factor because, well, they were all shown on the friggin’ jumbotron!!!

The row of organizers, which included, aside from Mr. Levy and Mr. Sy, NBA Asia’s Mr. Carlo Singson and West Avenue Theatre’s Mr. Eugene Tejerero among others, also graciously responded to questions from the audience. After the press con formally closed, the organizers even stayed behind to answer even more questions and grant some interviews from the info-hungry media mavens.

This was when I got to catch Mr. Levy. I asked him why it took so long for the NBA to play a game in Manila, especially considering how big an NBA market we are, and he simply said, “We finally found the perfect partner in SM.”

I was also interested to know what the teams’ and players’ itineraries would be when they arrive in Manila, but Mr. Levy and the rest of the organizers were pretty much mum about these details. All they said was we should keep tabs on the online accounts of the NBA (, NBA Philippines, Facebook, and Twitter) for further updates.


Total entertainment

If the latest NBA-connected events are to be gauges, however, we can probably expect the Rockets and Pacers to go through the gamut of media events, basketball clinics, mall tours, and charity activities. Heck, don’t be surprised to see Jeremy Lin or Chandler Parsons end up on a Bench billboard, or maybe James Harden become an endorser for a shaving company. How about Roy Hibbert or the NBA cheerleaders on a noontime show? Here in the Philippines, that is actually possible. I hope the NBAers know what they’re getting into!

Needless to say, 2013 is going to be big for the MOA Arena and for Philippine basketball in general. I mean, the 2013 FIBA Asia will be held there and now the first ever NBA preseason game featuring two NBA clubs as well! To paraphrase one of my media colleagues, it looks like the MOA Arena is carving its own niche in local sports entertainment history.

As for ticket prices, don’t expect to pay the same amount you do for the usual UAAP or PBA games (like Php300 for a Patron seat). That just won’t happen. Instead, be ready to shell out 4-5 figures for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Even if Mr. Sy promised everyone that they already have many sponsors to help defray the costs, I don’t think the tickets will be accessible to most sectors of the metro. There wasn’t even any indication it would be shown on free TV, though I think it would be a really terrible move if they fail to acquire a free TV partner.

In any case, this game should be an awesome event. It will be BIG in practically every sense of the word. –

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