PLDT All-Star Challenge!!
When in Manila, basketball is more than just a sport. It’s a way of life. We Filipinos love the sport so much that as soon as we hear about our basketball idols coming over for an exhibition game, we go out of our way to see them come hell or high water!
That’s exactly what happened Wednesday night when I got to catch Scottie Pippen play at the PLDT All-Star Challenge at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The game featured the US All-Stars in an exhibition game against a team consisting of PBA legends and veterans. The US All-Stars defeated the PBA Legends team 112-93, but the game was a lot closer than that and way more entertaining than the score would indicate.
Jason Williams stole the show, reminding the Filipino audience why he was known as “White Chocolate” throughout his 12-year NBA career. He dominated the game with his no-look passes and his quick crossovers, while also lighting up from the outside — hitting six 3-pointers — en route to 28 points.
Aside from Pippen and Williams, the US All-Stars also featured fellow NBA legends Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Mitch Richmond, and Cliff Robinson. Rounding out the squad were NBA journeymen Jeff Trepagnier, Chris Campbell, Victor Alexander and Charoy Bentley. Their head coach for the exhibition game was Hall of Famer Oscar “The Big O” Robertson.
The Pinoys in the crowd were looking forward to seeing rim-rattling dunks and Pippen finally gave the fans what they were asking for when he made the first dunk of the game with 1:39 left in the second quarter. Pippen would later give the fans something to remember for a long time when he made a two-handed dunk off a pass off the backboard from Williams.
But the Americans weren’t the only ones who had tricks up their sleeves. The PBA Legends went out there looking to steal the show, as well. Much of their points came off crafty passes that seemingly came out of nowhere, showcasing the ball movement and quickness that Filipinos have always taken advantage of in international play.
“Captain Marbel” Kenneth Duremdes led the Filipinos with 28 points, while showing the crowd that he’s still got it despite having retired in 2008. Nelson Asaytono may no longer be the powerful dunker he was in his heyday, but he made up for it by using his post-up moves to create some space for his inside buckets. He drew a loud ovation from the home crowd after successfully hitting a free throw with his feet facing away from the basket and his torso turning towards the basket.
Rounding out the rest of the PBA Legends squad were Vince “The Prince” Hizon, EJ Feihl, Jojo Lastimosa, Bong “The Hawk” Hawkins, Bal “The Flash” David, Noli Locsin, Marlou “The Skyscraper” Aquino and Jerry “The Defense Minister” Codiñera, who pulled double-duty as player-coach.
The crowd was into it all night long, showing their respect and adulation for their local and foreign idols. As what happens in every professional basketball game in the Philippines, the fans started going crazy when the American players started giving away autographed basketballs.
Even during the dull moments of the game, the Pinoy audience found a way to entertain themselves by doing waves several times, with one or two even involving the participation of U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. There were also chants of “WE WANT CLIFF!” throughout the first quarter, which showed the respect of the Filipino basketball fans for 1993 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Cliff Robinson, punctuated by the cheers that were showered upon him when he finally entered the game.
Video by RoanneAujero.com
This night was truly something to remember as many Pinoy basketball fans got to reminisce on their childhood memories of seeing Pippen play with Horace Grant on the Chicago Bulls in the early 90s, and alongside Dennis Rodman during the mid-90s, or Mitch Richmond hitting threes as he used to during his prime. Younger basketball fans were also treated to seeing Jason Williams ply his trade in person, while everybody was just showing The Big O the type of respect only he could earn.
When in Manila, saying that you love basketball is an understatement because in this country, basketball and love pretty much mean the same thing.
Story by Stan Sy
Photos by WhenInManila.com photographers Martin Chua and Lawrence Pagan
Video by RoanneAujero.com
NBA Legends Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman in Manila: NBA vs PBA All Star Basketball Challenge