by Dylan Bothamley and Max Levin
The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup tipped off on Friday, August 25 in Manila, Okinawa and Jakarta. The Philippines has long been known as one of the most basketball-enthusiastic countries in the world, and they have declared the tournament’s opening day a semi-holiday, with schools and many businesses closed.
FIBA’s (the International Basketball Federation) decision to award the country hosting rights for the 2023 World Cup was in large part a recognition of this passion for basketball.
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is one of the world’s premier basketball leagues, frequently attracting former NBA players, as well as some of the largest crowds in the world.
The event is a landmark in the Philippines’ sporting history, marking perhaps the biggest global tournament ever to take place in the Philippines (the Philippines also hosted the World Cup in 1978, but basketball had a much smaller global footprint in those days).
While early-round games will also take place in Okinawa, Japan and Jakarta, Indonesia, the Philippines is the primary host of the Basketball World Cup; Manila will host half of the early-round games and then all matches during the final stages of the tournament, with games to be held at the Mall of Asia Arena and the Araneta Coliseum.
While fans will be excited to see how Gilas Pilipinas fare in the tournament, the other major subplot is the excitement at seeing some of the NBA’s biggest players, including Austine Reaves, Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards playing live in Manila during the tournament.
The U.S. team has many of the biggest names at the tournament, and they will play their group games in Manila as well as any knockout matches if they advance, and fans are excited to attend the games and watch their heroes in person. The U.S. team arrived in Manila on the morning of August 22 and was greeted by throngs of fans at both the airport and their hotel.
As the host country, the Philippines national team was placed in Group A, along with Italy, Angola and the Dominican Republic. While they are considered long shots to advance deep into the tournament, Gilas Pilipinas do have several talented players and will have the advantage of playing in front of raucous home crowds.
For NBA fans, the most recognizable player for Gilas Pilipinas will be Utah Jazz guard and 2021 NBA 6th Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson. Born in Tampa, Florida, Clarkson is of mixed African-American and Filipino-American descent.
Another important player will be 7’3” center Kai Sotto, a rising star who is considered one of the better homegrown players to emerge out of the Philippines in recent years.
The team is coached by Chot Reyes, who led the team to a historic silver medal finish at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship and then to qualification at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
During the FIBA World Cup’s opening day, a record-breaking 38,115 fans attended the Philippines vs. Dominican Republic game at the Philippine Arena. This attendance record broke the FIBA World Cup attendance set in 1992 in Toronto, Canada.
As FIBA finishes its second round of group games this weekend, Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena is preparing to host the last week of FIBA with the most anticipated final game on Sunday, September 10.
by Dylan Bothamley and Max Levin