NBA stars promise great show in Manila


THRILLA IN MANILA. Five of the planet’s finest basketball stars—(from left) Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard and James Harden of the Houston Rockets, and Lance Stephenson and Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers—arrive in Manila Monday for their NBA preseason game on Thursday at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. NBA greats Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry and Jalen Rose also flew in to drum up the game that is expected to draw a sellout crowd. COMPOSITE PHOTO BY RODEL ROTONI, AP AND AFP

The biggest basketball spectacle for this hoop-crazy nation has begun.

Two star-studded teams, along with an array of the sport’s living legends, arrived in Manila Monday as the National Basketball Association (NBA) stages a preseason game for the first time in Southeast Asia.

The Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers clash at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City, where an overflow crowd is expected, as over 16,000 tickets have already been sold.

NBA superstar center Dwight Howard flew in at 10 a.m. Monday via a chartered flight together with his Rockets teammates, led by Taiwanese-American sensation Jeremy Lin and James Harden.

Bannered by rising stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers arrived at 6:55 a.m., also via a chartered flight.

The Pacers, the Eastern Conference finalists last season, came with one of basketball’s all-time greatest, Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics icon who’s now the president of the Pacer franchise.

Blockbuster show

Ron Harper, the five-time NBA champion who won titles with Michael Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, arrived last weekend as one of the NBA Global Games ambassadors.

“We’re just excited to come over to play the game and give Filipinos a great show,” Harden said.

Other greats drumming up the blockbuster event are hardcourt legends Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler and Jalen Rose. They also arrived on Monday with a big delegation of league personnel and officials, led by NBA vice president for basketball operations Ernest Maurice “Kiki” Vandeweghe.

The NBA has said many times over that the Philippines tops the list of countries outside the United States that follow the NBA on various platforms, including its website and social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Record sale of tickets

“It’s exciting to see the love that the Philippine people have for basketball,” Horry told a media conference at Sofitel Manila. Horry won seven NBA championships with three different teams.

“I’m really excited for the game,” he said. “I know it’s going to be a packed house and there’s going to be craziness. I’m just excited [about] how many people will come out for the game.”

Nicole Deato, marketing and sponsorship head of MOA Arena and SM Tickets, said a record P19 million worth of tickets were sold on the first day of release last June 16.

Tickets ranged from as low as P550 to as high as P32,300 for premium seats.

High-caliber match

“It’s a pleasure to have the NBA in Manila. When you put the two together, it spells a great time,” said Drexler, who starred for the Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers in the 1980s and ’90s.

The Global Games ambassadors said the Filipinos should brace for a high-caliber match.

“This is the first preseason game we’re having here and we have two good, young and exciting teams,” Harper said. “We expect a lot from them this year.”

“These are two great teams who can eventually be foes in the NBA Finals,” Drexler added. “That’s how good I think these teams are. They are on their way to become among the best NBA franchises.”

Global schedule

The game is part of the NBA’s comprehensive global schedule that will have eight teams play in eight cities in six countries this October. After Manila, the Rockets and Pacers will play in Taipei on Sunday.

In the Global Games series, there’ll be 12 teams playing outside the United States and Canada, the most ever, and the league will play regular season games in two countries beyond those for the first time.

There are stops in old standbys and first-time trips to cities in Brazil and Spain that will be hosting major international competitions in the next few years.

Worth the pricey tickets

The Philippines tops the list of countries following the NBA on Facebook and Twitter outside the United States, organizers said.

Additionally, the NBA conducts each year local events in the Philippines, including the Jr. NBA program, which has reached more than 60,000 students, parents and coaches over the past five years, and NBA 3X, the league’s global fan event.

NBA Asia country manager Carlo Singson said Filipino fans should expect a “real NBA experience” that’s worth the pricey tickets.

“The atmosphere in an NBA game is different from anything you’ve experienced before, if you haven’t been into one,” Singson said in an earlier interview. “It’s nonstop entertainment and action.”

Focus on Lin

Before Thursday’s historic showdown, the NBA players, legends and team officials will also grace various NBA Cares activities in schools and selected neighborhood basketball courts, and engage Filipino fans in mall events.

A throng of press photographers jostling against security officials for the NBA stars’ arrival bore testament to the intense interest the clash is generating in the Philippines, which this year hosted the FIBA Asia Championship, losing to Iran in the finals.

Much of the focus has been on Lin, the first American-born player of Asian descent in the league, whose breakthrough season in 2012 led to a global following dubbed “Linsanity.”

“Jeremy Lin welcome to the Philippines! Best Asian NBA player,” tweeted fan John Lester Delesmo.

Mark Anthony Marquez, a college student, said he was disappointed he missed out on cheap tickets in the bleachers, which had quickly sold out. “Maybe I will camp out at the arena,” he said.—With reports from AP and AFP

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  • Bulakenyo Ako

    Sana nga na makapag pakita ang 2 NBA team na ito ng mala exciting na laro lalo na sa mga stars nila. kapag pre season games kasi ang mga sikat na manlalaro nila ay pinalalaro lang ng ilang minuto sa loob ng court at mas bibigyan ng coaching staff ang mga benches ng mas mahabang playing time for evaluation process.

  • Maglalawis

    Mali ka Jasmine Payo. Yang mga players na nasa pic ay sina (L-R) Bal David, Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin, at Robert Jaworski. Import nila yan si Paul George. Ginebra! Ginebra!

  • mindanao1

    Jasmine, hindi yan si Paul George…si Danny Granger yan sa far right.

  • jtclassic

    By the way, who’s broadcasting the game? I can’t seem to find information on this.

    • chikko

      dapat yong magaling mag english lol

  • neutral bias

    Guy in the far right is NOT Paul George. It’s Danny Granger.

  • BahoPuwet

    to me, the very Best & Greatest NBA visit was in the early 1970s (maybe ’71 or ’72). It was the first time BIG names played in Manila. It was comprised of:
    – The BIG E (Elvin Hayes), led the NBA in scoring & rebounding the preceeding 2 seasons;
    – Earl ‘Black Jesus’ Monroe
    – Gail Goodrich (he showed no effort during the game, disinterested);
    – Geoff Petrie
    – Elgin Baylor (playing coach)
    – Calvin Murphy (all 5-9 of him, an unknown name to many including myself until he DUNKED during the game)
    – can’t recall the other players (can someone help?)
    Thereafter, it was followed by an NBA summer league (Walt Frazier, Tiny Archibald, etc.), 1973-74 NC State Wolfpack exhibition game led by David Thompson, then the 1979 visit by NBA champs Washington Bullets.

    • jtclassic

      Yes, I believe there were just six NBA players then. Of course, we were clobbered, which we expected when the exhibition series was announced. Although in one game we put up a great fight, and they had to put in the Big E, because none in our national team could guard him (at that time, our centers were 6’2”). The crowd booed. Haha. Of course we lost. Calvin Murphy was unbelievable. He was just everywhere. And Earl “the Pearl” Monroe made moves that everyone in school (I was in elementary then) kept trying to imitate, especially that spin move.

      • Bulakenyo Ako

        Jimmy Mariano was the tallest then at 6’4″. I think Mon and Abet were still unknown and were playing in college. Now we got centers who are 6’9″ to 7’0″ already

      • BahoPuwet

        and we had Big Boy Reynoso (RIP) at 6-2 playing center. He was built like Wes Unseld.

      • BahoPuwet

        I think there 7 or 8 in that NBA team…. we’re missing 1 or 2 names….

  • ddano

    Expect thousands of paying public to see these basketball players. Sadly a lot less people attended the anti-pork rally in Makati last week.

    • marionics

      is that even a valid comparison?

      he he

  • jtclassic

    I hope someone advises these NBA players to be patient with Filipinos. We love the game so much that sometimes we get carried away. Welcome, guys.

  • mike

    baka naman mag rally pa nito mga Terroristang Rallyista? galit2x kayo sa kano pero tumatalon kayo pag nakakashoot noon si Jordan.

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