AFTER a successful hosting of the Seventh Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Women’s Championship, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is bidding to stage the 26th FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship next year. If ever, this will the third time the event will be staged in the venue of its birth in 1960 as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Men’s Championship. The second and last time the country hosted the biennial event was way back in 1973.
The tournament was originally awarded to Lebanon, but some internal problems have forced them to withdraw. FIBA-Asia thus ordered a new round of bids.
Winning the hosting rights will be a big boost to Philippine basketball as the home side aims for nothing less than the championship to earn them the lone Asian berth in the 2012 London Olympics. Qualifying for London is the ultimate goal of the ambitious Smart Gilas Program of the SBP, hoping to return after last seeing action in the 1972 edition in Munich.
A stadium filled with rabid Filipino fans should help boost the chances of the Philippines as they tackle the giants of Asian basketball. In the two times the Philippines hosted, they are undefeated in 19 games!
The inaugural edition of the tournament was held at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum from January 15 to 31, 1960. Seven nations answered the call – the Philippines, China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan South Korea and Malaya (Malaysia).
In the preliminaries, Indonesia (92-46), Hong Kong (115-66), Malaya (126-58), Korea (97-79), Japan (97-73) and China (96-83) fell one after the other. Advancing to the playoffs, the Filipinos repeated over Korea (96-82) and Japan (92-80) before clinching the gold against the Chinese on the final day, 99-78.
The first champions of Asia consisted of legends Carlos Loyzaga, Carlos Badion, Bonnie Carbonell, Mariano Tolentino, Emilio Achacoso, Eduardo Lim, Narciso Bernardo, Tata Carranceja, Roberto Yburan, Constancio Ortiz, Kurt Bachmann, Alfonso Marquez, Leonardo del Pilar and Ed Ocampo. The coach was Arturo Rius.
The team to the Seventh ABC faced a big task. Aside from the pressure of playing at home, the team aimed to make up for the Philippines lousy performance in the past two editions. The team could only manage a bronze medal in the Fifth ABC in Bangkok, their worst finish to date. Two years ago, the team improved to a silver finish in Tokyo, their only loss coming at the hands of the hosts, 69-93.
The Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) assembled a team with only five returnees from the last ABC – Robert Jaworski, Big Boy Reynoso, Manny Paner, Bogs Adornado and Yoyong Martirez. A sixth returnee, Larry Mumar, was relegated to the reserve list upon submission of the final 12-player roster by Coach Tito Eduque, who took over from Ning Ramos.
Completing the team were young centers Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, Dave Regullano, Francis Arnaiz and Joy Cleofas and veterans Jimmy Mariano and Tembong Melencio, who last saw duty four years earlier in Tokyo. Mariano, Melencio, Jaworski and Reynoso were also part of the last Philippine champion team back in 1967 at Seoul.
Again, the Rizal Memorial was the venue of competition from December 18 to 28, 1973. It also marked the biggest ABC to date with 12 participating teams – Philippines, China (Taiwan), Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and first-timers Iran and Pakistan.
The Filipinos bulldozed through the opposition, with a 133-55 massacre of Pakistan on opening day setting the tone. What followed were wins over India (109-73), Indonesia (108-77), Singapore (130-49) and China (88-81). In the next round, the story was the same with wins over Iran (88-80) and Japan (89-68) and repeats over China (101-64) and India (110-84).
In the final game, the Philippines regained the ABC with a 90-78 thrashing of the Koreans. That would mark the last time that an all-Filipino team won the ABC. For winning the ABC, the team also earned a ticket to the 1974 World Championship in Puerto Rico.
The 1973 crown was the fourth for the Philippines after winning in 1960, 1963 and 1967. With the professional PBA opening in 1975, the BAP was forced to form a ragtag team to defend the crown that same year in Bangkok. The result was the Philippines failing to climb the medal podium for the first time – Fifth Place. One more ABC title would come to the Philippines in 1986 when two naturalized players reinforced the team in Malaysia.
Thirty-eight years is too long a wait for hardcore Pinoy basketball fans and they cannot wait any longer. Hosting the FIBA-Asia is a testament that the Philippines is back on the Asian basketball map. Recent finishes by the national teams have dramatically raised its FIBA ranking. The former kings are ready to reclaim their throne.