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Some reasons why Philippines should host the FIBA World Cup

By Ivan Saldajeno

WITH the FIBA Central Board convening on Friday on which among the Philippines and China will host the 2019 FIBA World Cup, I list down some reasons why the Philippines has the edge for the hosting right.

1. The Filipinos play basketball and speak it too.
Basketball courts are everywhere, even on the railroads. Anonymous
You may not be in a territory of the Philippines if you cannot see makeshift basketball backboards there. Even the kids play the game so much that even off the court, they are talking about it. Even the sports press is guilty of inserting basketball topics in their conversations especially if the group is covering another sport. About how Filipinos play the sport so passionately, some would go all out even for just a serving of packed water.

2. Basketball is a "religion" in the Philippines.
Chicago's "streak-buster" against Miami became the most talked about topic in
the Philippines on a Christian holiday. Nam Huh/AP (file photo)
In an Asian country known to be predominantly Christian, you may be surprised if I say that some treat basketball as a "religion" in the Philippines. In fact, while everyone was commemorating Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross during Holy Week in 2013, the certified hoop junkies shifted their attention instantly when the Chicago Bulls snapped Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak. With both teams being superstar-laden, everyone talked about the game during the entire Maundy Thursday. In addition, how about Ateneo-La Salle and Ginebra games being played on Sundays, when everyone is worshiping God?

3. Expect jampacked arenas even if the crowd favorites are not playing.
In a moment only a few saw coming, a jampacked Smart Araneta Coliseum witnessed
the end to NU's 60-year title drought. Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
Speaking of Ateneo-La Salle, many college basketball fans were sad when NU and FEU booked tickets to last year's UAAP Finals, respectively beating Ateneo and La Salle in the semis. Many thought the Mall of Asia Arena and the Smart Araneta Coliseum will be "full" of empty seats as only a few had either NU or FEU making the championship series. But lo and behold, many fans trooped to watch the entire three-game series with the decider, won by the Bulldogs, being the most-watched basketball game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum all-time, shattering the gate attendances of Crispa-Toyota games during the PBA's early days in the 70's. Talk about being hardcore basketball fans.

4. Height doesn't matter!
Gilas' heroics gave "small but terrible" a new meaning.
From L.A. Tenorio's Instagram
The Filipinos are among the shortest people in the world in terms of average height, but they are also the craziest basketball-wise. Grantland's Rafe Bartholomew subtitled his well-known Pacific Rims (not to be confused with the robot-themed movie) "The Philippines' unlikely love affair with basketball", probably describing how the relatively-short Filipinos get hooked to a game where height matters. Gilas Pilipinas, however, showed the antithesis of it. It's all about the heart. Gilas compromised its lack of ceiling with a brilliant basketball play that amazed the whole world. Despite finishing the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a 1-4 record, most of Gilas' losses were close ones, and some international hoop junkies even thought the team would have been 4-1. No wonder the theme for the Philippines' hosting right bid is "Puso 2019". For me, however, this is the most important reason. It's not about the height; it's about the passion.