MANILA, Philippines – For 24 ballers, basketball quite literally never stops.
Still happening at the Meralco Gym in Pasig as of posting time is the Basketball Marathon, an attempt by the Philippines to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest game of basketball.
Organized by Asian Cable Enterprises, Inc. (ACCESS) and a project of Bounce Back PH, the event is a record attempt with the greater goal of raising funds for Gawad Kalinga’s ‘Operation Walang Iwanan,’ which aims to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
The objective is fairly simple: to play basketball for as long as possible.
Two teams – Team Walang Iwanan and Team Bounce Back – composed of 12 players each will have to play ball continuously without stopping. Players rotate every two hours and are allowed to sleep in makeshift quarters on the bleachers, where they also eat. The players are not allowed to speak with anyone, including their families, other than the organizers for the duration of the record attempt.
The previous record holder was 112 hours and 13 seconds from March 21-25 2012. The game took place at the Missouri Athletic Club in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA with Team Joplin defeating Team St. Louis, 11,806-11,620.
The Philippines’ Basketball Marathon officially tipped off on Monday, March 24 at 7AM and has been ongoing for 5 days now.
At 1AM on Saturday, March 29 the record seekers have officially matched the previous record. But their ultimate goal is to make it to 120 hours, which is 9AM on Saturday morning.
As of 2:28 AM on Saturday, March 29, Teams Walang Iwanan and Bounce Back have each scored over 15,700 points. As of Friday, several players already scored about 3,000 points. Additionally, the teams broke the scoring record of 11,806 already on Thursday night at around 12:17AM.
Will Guinness approve?
Having surpassed the previous record does not automatically mean the Guinness World Records will approve of it and certify it as the new record.
According to Jacque Ruby, COO of ACCESS Discovery Channel, Guinness follows a strict set of guidelines on qualifications. That their attempt be nullified is the most pressing concern of the organizers and the players.
“I’m confident that our players are going to break the record. My fear now is Guinness because even if we set the record at 120 (hours), she can cite some technicality and say no, we violated a guideline or we overlooked this and that, and say that the claim is rejected,” Ruby explained. “That’s our biggest fear.”
Ruby elaborated that there are two possible technicalities the Guinness adjudicator might look into.
“Dalawa yan (There are two), they have to play the spirit of the rules of the sport,” he said. “During graveyard shift you will see some players not running anymore, stays at the other end and just waits for the ball. That’s not an actual game anymore.
“The other one is going to the toilet. Ideally, if they wanna be medicated or treated it should be at the sleeping quarters but there’s not enough space because they imposed a courtside sleeping area, and there’s not enough space so they have to go out.”
The Guinness adjudicator arrived on Friday afternoon and has already set to work in private, reviewing as much footage and evidence as possible of the past few days. Ruby explains the organizers have been sending photos and footage to Guinness since the first day to speed up the evaluation process.
Event organizers are not allowed to join the adjudicator as she conducts her evaluation. Once the decision has been made, there is no room for appeal.
“The power is in the hands of one person,” Ruby said.
Injuries and depression
Straying away from the original objective of basketball, which is to score more points than the opponent given a specific amount of time (48 minutes in professional leagues), it’s a given that injuries are bound to happen to players regardless of how slow or careful their pace is.
Among the injuries they have encountered so far include blisters, muscle strains, dizziness, dehydration, some cases of diarrhea and one case of depression. One of the 3 Americans playing suffered the depression as it was the death anniverary of his child and he couldn’t be home in the US, though Ruby says he has recovered and is still playing.
Ruby also spoke of one player who sprained his ankle and needed to be medicated and is also recovering. Instances like this, where players need to sleep longer or be treated, do not entail replacement players. Should any of the 24 participants be taken out, the remaining members must find a way to continue playing, according to Ruby.
During the two-hour breaks, players get checked for their vitals, take a shower, eat, defecate and, most importantly, get some sleep.
“Surprisingly, no one asked for TV. They just want to sleep,” Ruby shared. ” They try to sleep an hour during the two-hour break that they have.”
He added that medics are present at all times throughout the event and players are checked every time before they go to the court.
Everything seems to be going smoothly according to Ruby. He says their only worries are the special requests of players from food to clothing.
“They requested for running shoes instead of wearing basketball shoes because it’s causing the blisters,” Ruby said. “So we gave them running shoes.”
The key to any World Record attempt is always in the preparation.
For this basketball marathon, preparations began last November through tryouts and screenings.
According to Ruby, the main qualification they wanted for their players was more mental toughness than physical conditioning or talent in the sport.
“People thought it was basketball skills. Pero ito yung hinanap namin (But this is what what we looked for),” he said pointing to his head. “Mental toughness. That will help you sustain.”
He elaborated: “The first day is all athleticism and your skill set. But during these times, you really have to will it.”
Of the 24 players, 3 are Americans – the same record holders from 2012. The youngest player is 19 years of age while the oldest is at 47 years old.
But not all participants are male. There is one girl in the team: Maricar Convencido, who is a PE teacher.
“Grabe si Maricar. Wala akong narinig sa kanya (Maricar is impressive. I haven’t heard any complaints from her),” Ruby spoke highly of her. “I was right in picking her. She played with the boys with no special treatment.”
Before the record attempt, the players went through more than a month of trainings consisting of scrimmages, conditioning, strengthening, proper diet and team building.
“We really prepared hard for this. We will really be very devastated (if Guinness rejects the claim),” Ruby said.
In case Guinness does reject their attempt, Ruby says they will still stand proud and hang banners of their achievement.
“As it is that’s (120 hours) a remarkable feat already,” Ruby said. “Nobody has done that.”
There are many differences between the record from 2012 and the current record attempt as far as how it was organized. According to Ruby, the 2012 record didn’t have many guidelines.
He said they used a smaller court, did not have a 24-second shot clock and didn’t record the whole attempt.
“They were even allowed to play barefoot,” he added.
Perhaps due to that, Guinness has upped the criteria immensely for this new record attempt. But it is also because of those same strict regulations that this 2014 record may likely be very difficult to top.
“Should they award it to us, we’ve raised the bar so high,” Ruby concluded.