A NATIONAL Basketball Association (NBA) game in a country profusely passionate about basketball—perfect!
On October 10 this year, rabid Filipino basketball fans get to watch in the flesh an NBA game featuring the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers.
Never mind if it’s a pre-season game—a warmup and goodwill for the world’s most prestigious and most popular pro cage league. What matters most is that a basketball-loving Philippines has become the latest member of the NBA organization.
NBA Asia officially announced the holding of the game at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City in appropriate ceremonies on Tuesday—where else, but at the venue itself.
No less than NBA Commissioner David Stern, through a video recording, made the announcement.
“I am thrilled to announce the pres-season game to be played for the first time in the Philippines on October 10,” said Stern. The video was played on the MOA Arena’s giant screen.
“Our game in Manila is an exciting opportunity to connect with the passionate basketball fans in the Philippines and across South East Asia,” Stern added. “The Philippines is an ideal setting for the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers to take part in a showcase of our game and give fans in the region an authentic NBA experience.”
SM Prime Holdings Inc. President Hans Sy and NBA Asia Senior Vice President and Managing Director Scott Levy led the ceremonies attended by enthusiastic guests and members of media.
“Since Mall of Asia Arena opened in May 2012, our promise is bring top notch sports entertainment to the Filipinos,” said Sy. “We’ve been waiting for this world-class basketball to be played in this venue. This pre-season game no doubt will make history and will be momentous to our humble nation and Filipino basketball fanatics.”
Levy said since 1978, 138 preseason and regular NBA games were staged in 19 countries and territories across Europe, America and Asia.
“The team owners and players are all excited to play here in this state-of-the -art venue. We are delighted to be here for our first-ever pre-season game in front of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in the world,” said Levy.
“We thanked the SM Group of Companies for making it happen,” he added. Levy presented Sy an Indiana Pacers jersey signed by one of its stars, Danny Granger.
It will be the first time in more than 20 years that a full NBA team is coming over. The Washington Bullets played an exhibition game against a Philippine Basketball Association selection in 1979. Two years ago, current NBA stars led by Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant played an exhibition game against the present crop of PBA stars before a jam-packed Smart Araneta Coliseum crowd.
The preseason match is part of the NBA’s Global Games. Expected to be in town are the Rockets’ James Harden and Jeremy Lin and the Pacers’ Paul George and Granger.
Oklahoma City will travel to Istanbul to play against Fenerbahce Istanbul on October 5 also in an exhibition match, while the Philadelphia 76ers will face Uxue Bilbao Basket on October 6 in Bilbao, Spain. The Thunder and the Sixers then mix it up on October 8 in Manchester, England.
After the Philippines, the Rockets and the Pacers will travel Taiwan on October 13. The Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards will also play a pre-season match on October 12 in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers will visit Beijing and Shanghai on October 15 and 18.
In Photo: Scott Levy (right), NBA Asia senior vice president and managing director, presents an Indiana Pacers jersey to Hans Sy, SP Prime Holdings Inc. president. (Roy Domingo)