The Philippines is world-renowned as a basketball-crazy country.
Tim Reynolds, lead basketball writer for the Associated Press, begs to differ, as he has lived and breathed the air of basketball all around Metro Manila for the last two weeks in FIBA World Cup 2023.
“We came here knowing they were basketball-crazy, but I didn’t know what that meant until you get here. It’s unfair to call them basketball-crazy,” he said.
“They’re basketball-deranged, is what they are.”
Reynolds has been producing wire stories — the recaps and features on the NBA and Olympics, among many others, that are distributed to and used by local newspapers and websites — for over two decades. As it turns out, however, he has never experienced anything like a big game on the big stage and under the bright lights in the Philippines.
“The level of it surprised me. It’s not just a few people. It’s not just a couple-thousand people. It’s awesome to see, and it just speaks to the power of this game,” he said. “I’ve seen it (basketball) played in a lot of places in the world and they love it in a lot of places, but I don’t know if any place loves the game more than the people do here.”
The AP writer was glad to share that he has now seen the world-famous basketball courts anywhere and basketball games anytime. Alongside that, he also zoned in at how Filipinos continued to support their national team through its struggles in the world meet.
“There’s so much passion here. Their team went 1-4 and finished 24th-place. For people who aren’t here and don’t understand how difficult it is to get around this city in a typhoon, and they (Filipino fans) still filled that place to cheer on a winless team at that time, that tells you all you need to know,” he said.
“It is so much more than what I thought it was. I knew from covering the [Miami] Heat and [Filipino-American coach] Erik Spoelstra that people from the Philippines love basketball, but I had no idea how much.”
The Filipinos’ love for basketball has been felt not only in the writing of veteran journalists, but also in the content of youthful creators and producers.
“We’re at a basketball event and I knew we had a large Filipino audience, but I was still surprised by the amount of Filipino fans here. It’s different seeing it on TikTok than getting to interact with them. I didn’t realize how much an impact our content has made 9,000 miles from home,” said Matthew Shaw, content creator for Bebida Tailgate.
Shaw and his team have 541,000 followers on TikTok and another 49,000 on Instagram. Their most popular videos feature them quizzing fans about NBA trivia, entertaining and educating their audience at the same time.
“It’s been insane. I can’t believe how deep of knowledge Filipino fans have of the NBA. They live and breathe it. We’ve had some really, really difficult questions answered,” he said.
“You can really feel the fandom here. Even the children are walking around with their jerseys and Euro stepping in the mall. Basketball is really life here.”
Capturing that love for sport on camera has made Shaw’s 28-hour flight from — and back home to — Pittsburgh in the USA worth it.
“It’s been an awesome experience. It’s my first time in Asia and it’s been really fantastic. It’s very heartwarming to feel the love from so many Filipino fans,” he said.
At the same time, foreign journalists are also appreciative of the care they have received from FIBA World Cup 2023 organizers.
“I’ve loved it. People have been incredible and venues have been great. From the volunteers to the staff, the entire thing has been a first-class event all the time,” said Reynolds.