Basketball has a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos and Filipino Americans alike. One cannot visit the Philippines and not notice Filipinos playing on the millions of makeshift basketball hoops, barangay courts, and gymnasiums throughout the country. Likewise, one would be hard-pressed to know a Filipino American (particularly male) who does not follow the NBA.
Basketball was first introduced to Filipinos by YMCA clubs established in the Philippines during the early American colonial period. Institutionalized by American colonial officials in Philippine physical education as a way to instill discipline among their colonial subjects, basketball was adopted and adapted by many Filipinos and spread quickly among the populace. With Filipinos’ early success in the sport on an international stage and its economic accessibility, the game became a national obsession.
Yet, basketball is more than simple recreation. It tells us a lot about ourselves. For instance, basketball is a way many Filipino and Filipino American men perform masculinity. Likewise, the way that basketball is played among Filipinos reflects more communion and democracy compared to American norms on the court.
In this episode, we explore Filipino Americans’ particular relationship with basketball. How did our families introduce us to the sport? How do Filipino Americans play basketball differently than Filipino immigrants? And most importantly, who was the Philippines’ “Best-Looking Team”? All these discussions and more in this edition of This Filipino American Life.
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