Basketball in the Philippines

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Children playing basketball in a rural area.

Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, played on both the amateur and professional levels.


Postcard of women playing basketball in Dagupan, 1910
The national team playing against China at the 1917 Far Eastern Games in Tokyo.

Basketball was introduced in the Philippines during the American colonial period with the first American teachers teaching the sport along with baseball through the YMCA and the school system.[1] Basketball was first introduced to the Philippine public school system by the Americans as a women's sport in 1910 and was played in Interscholastic meets in 1911 until 1913. Women's basketball met opposition from conservative groups, particularly the Catholic Church who view bloomers worn by women basketball players as inappropriate. By the time skirts were allowed to be worn above bloomers as a compromise, women's basketball was already in decline and was only played in provincial and local interscholastic meets. Indoor softball and as well as volleyball became the more preferred sport for Filipino women.[2]

The first men's national team – organized in the 1910s – won the first Far Eastern Championship Games in 1913. In all but one of the ten editions of the games, the national team won the gold medal.[1]

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which had basketball as its main sport, was established in 1924.[1]

The Philippines became a member of FIBA through the Basketball Association of the Philippines in 1936.[citation needed] The Philippines made their debut in the Olympic Games in 1936 where they finished fifth, the best result of an Asian team in Olympic basketball history. In the same year, the first basketball stamp in the world was released by the country. The first commercial league was the basketball tournament of the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) which was established in 1938.[1]

The Philippines became an independent country in 1946, and in the 1950s, the national team did well in international tournaments. The Philippine team won the gold medal at the Asian Games in 1951, the first-time basketball was played.[3] The Philippine basketball team dominated the Asian Games until 1962.[3] In the 1954 FIBA World Championship the Philippines placed third, winning the bronze medal, the best performance by an Asian team in the World Championship.

After missing the first FIBA Basketball World Cup (known through 2010 as the FIBA World Championship) that was held in 1950 in Argentina, the Philippines participated in the 1954 FIBA World Championship held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Philippines finished with a 5–2 win–loss record in the Final Round games, and captured the bronze medal. The third place-finish is still currently the best finish by an Asian country in the World Cup. Carlos Loyzaga finished as the world tournament's third leading scorer (148 points/16.4 points per game) and was named in the FIBA World Mythical Five Selection.

In the 1960s, the first FIBA Asia Championship was won by the Philippines with Carlos Badion as the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Meanwhile, the Philippines won the right to host the third FIBA World Championship, but were suspended after then-President Diosdado Macapagal, father of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, refused to issue visas to players from communist countries (notably basketball powerhouse Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union).

The Philippines' dominance in sport waned after Carlos Loyzaga's retirement, and had performed poorly in the Olympic games where the national team was unable to break into top-10 positions. However, the country continued to play competitively in the Asian and World Championships.

The commercial league model pioneered by the MICAA continued with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in 1975 and the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) in 1983. The PBA is the first professional basketball league in Asia and the second oldest in the world after the NBA.[4] The league's regulations are a hybrid of rules from FIBA and the NBA. The league was inaugurated on April 9, 1975.[5] The PABL was established to fill the void created after the collapse of the MICAA in 1981.

In 1978, the Philippines hosted the FIBA World Championship, marking the first time that the international tournament was held in Asia.

In 1992, a poll was conducted by Enervon C asking 62 basketball experts to list their top ten Filipino basketball players of all time, with first place being worth ten points and a decrease in one point for each succeeding place.[6] Ranking first was Caloy Loyzaga, who received the most points with 603; in second place was Robert Jaworski with 458 points, while third place went to Ramon Fernandez with 332 points.[6]

The Philippines was suspended by FIBA in 2005 due to a leadership crisis which affected the former national basketball association of the country – the Basketball Association of the Philippines.

In 2007, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas became the newly recognized national basketball body for the Philippines by FIBA.

In 2009, Smart Gilas Pilipinas was officially launched to help the Philippines qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. They failed after finishing fourth in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.[7]

In 2013, the Philippines qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a second-place finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.[7] Gilas also qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup and is set to co-host the 2023 edition.[7] That year also saw the boys' U-16 team qualify for the 2014 FIBA U-17 World Championship,[8] and the boys' U-18 team winning the inaugural Fiba-Asia 3x3 U18 Championship.[9]

In 2015, the women's team was promoted to Level 1 after a win against India.[10]

In 2017, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), a league with a home-and-away format, was inaugurated.[11] Numerous other leagues with this format would follow, such as the National Basketball League (NBL) and the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup.

The 2020s also saw numerous Filipino basketball players play overseas in different leagues, with examples being Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena and others in the Japanese B. League, Jack Animam in Serbia, and Kai Sotto in the Australian NBL.[12]

National teams[edit]

The men's national team (blue) playing against Croatia (white) at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.


PBA game in the Araneta Coliseum






See also[edit]


  • XVII Intercontinental Cup – Girona/Barcelona 1985
  • Bocobo, Christian and Celis, Beth, Legends and Heroes of Philippine Basketball, (Philippines, 2004)
  • Dela Cruz, Juan, Book of Pinoy Facts and Records, (National Bookstore, Mandaluyong, Philippines, 2004)
  • Philippine Basketball Association, The First 25 Years, (Philippines, 2000)


  1. ^ a b c d Henson, Joaquin (2016). "Why Filipinos love basketball". The Philippine Star2. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  2. ^ Antolihao, Lou (2015). "Spheroid of Influence: Sports, Colonization, Modernity – Ballers in Bloomers:Sports, Gender, Participation". Playing with the Big Boys: Basketball, American Imperialism, and Subaltern Discourse in the Philippines (Illustrated ed.). University of Nebraska Pres. ISBN 978-0803278516. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Pamintuan, Carlo (September 29, 2014). "The Philippines headed for worst-ever Asian Games finish in basketball". Yahoo PH Sports. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ Bartholomew, Rafe. "Pacific Rims". New American Library, 2010, p. 13.
  5. ^ Bartholomew 2010, p. 13.
  6. ^ a b "Loyzaga tops survey". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. October 19, 1992. p. 30. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Zarate, Noel (August 7, 2020). "A timeline of the Gilas Pilipinas program". Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  8. ^ News, G. M. A. "Philippines settles for silver as China tops FIBA Asia U16 tourney". GMA News Online. Retrieved February 14, 2022. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  9. ^ "Victorious 3x3 team sets modest goal in worlds". Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  10. ^ "Perlas Pilipinas finds SEA Games letdown a major motivation for Fiba-Asia success". Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  11. ^ Henson, Joaquin M. "MPBL won't compete with PBA". Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  12. ^ Leongson, Randolph B. (December 29, 2021). "Yearender: Pinoy basketball talents thrive overseas in 2021". Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  13. ^[user-generated source]

External links[edit]