MANILA, Philippines–Don’t ever say “I’m too small to play ball,” or you’ll hear it from one of the most notorious trash talkers in NBA history.
NBA Legend Gary “The Glove” Payton may not know what it’s like to be in Filipinos’ small shoes standing at six-foot-four, but he sure knows that height is not everything.
“I’ve been hearing that around here a lot and I don’t really like that,” said the legendary Payton, who has made a name for himself in the NBA with his killer defensive tenacity and, of course, his ferocity on court.
“Nobody ain’t too little.”
Payton cited retired point guard Mugsy Bogues, who at five-foot-three played in the NBA for fourteen seasons–the shortest ever in the league. And he even won an Olympic Medal with the US National team to boot.
Spudd Webb, who was the shortest player to have won the annual Slam Dunk contest at five-foot-seven, also received special mention from The Glove.
“They strove to prove people wrong and make it to the NBA,” Payton emphatically told Inquirer Sports in the 2010 NBA Asia Press Conference at the Dusit Thani Hotel last August 24.
In the recent years, national hoops delegates have received the ire of spectators and detractors alike after a succession of heartbreaking downfalls in international basketball competitions.
Powerade Team Pilipinas and Smart Gilas Pilipinas, two teams who recently represented the Philipppines in FIBA tiffs worldwide have not even gotten far in the standings as they rammed against a wall of bigger and taller squads.
And those woes seemed to prop the theory that basketball might not be the sport for the vertically-challenged yet hoops-crazy Filipinos.
But five-time NBA All star and 1996 Rookie of the Year Chris “C-Webb” Webber, a six-foot-ten forward who had never tasted a championship but had a fruitful career in the NBA nonetheless, thinks otherwise.
“Height is a big factor, but it’s not the only factor,” shared C-Webb, whose face is still seen by NBA fanatics in a fairly regular basis being a TV Analyst for a network giant, TNT and NBATV.
“One thing you have with being short is speed. I’m tall, so I’m slow.”
The Philippines team to the Youth Olympic games held in Singapore recently placed ninth in the 3-on-3 basketball—which revealed an opportunity for Filipinos to excel in the sport they love, without having to pay the price for being undersized.
The game puts premium on speed and less emphasis on size, with 10-second shotclocks and rules that prohibit dunking or scoring on a defensive rebound.
“I think the 3-on-3 game is great, I’ve tried it before,” said C-Webb.
Webb echoed Payton’s sentiments, believing that height deficiency should never stop you from achieving your dreams of becoming a professional basketball player in the Philippines, or even to fulfill a seemingly far-fetched dream of playing in the NBA.
“You look at point guards like Steve Nash and Allen Iverson, they’re small. So I think anybody can be successful,” finished Webb.
Glen Rice, a sweet shooting NBA-All star who won his first championship back in 2000 with the Los Angeles Lakers, had a sound advice to those Filipinos bereft of size and vertical leaps.
“You don’t have to worry to have to dunk all the time. Work on you jump shot and get it to perfection,” said the man who owns one of the smoothest jumpshots in the sport and used it as a calling card during his 15-year career in the NBA, where he still ranks even 8th all-time in three-point field goals.
Rice, Payton, Webb and Mitch Richmond are set to team up with the NBA D-League members, PBA greats and current PBA players in a slam bang showdown this August 27.
These seasoned players fought a long way, even through championship-less or injury-plagued careers, to be given the title of an NBA Great, and all three of them believe that hardwork can take you to place you’ve never been to—regardless of height.
“You need to be focused to strive to do something else,” Payton concluded.
“I think kids here (in the Philippines) should be doing that too.”
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