By Francis N. Tolentino
The decision of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to withdraw the participation of the Philippine basketball team in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia shocked Pinoy basketball fans who have long waited to see our players showcase once again the Filipino brand of basketball. All hopes died out when the SBP made the decision final and official through a letter sent to the Indonesian Games Organizing Committee, informing them of the consensus arrived at by the basketball organization.
In the official statement of the SBP, the reason for the sudden withdrawal of the Philippine team was “the time and chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games would not be optimal” and our national basketball team will have to “regroup, prepare for the process of appealing the FIBA Disciplinary Panel’s recent decision, and aim for sustainable success in future tournaments.” Basketball fanatics still continue to hope that before the Asian basketball Games commence on August 14, tides will turn and that they can cheer for their hardcourt idols as they compete in Jakarta. I remember my younger days when we maintained two Philippine national teams, one for the ABC Basketball Tournament and one for PestaSukan, both highly competitive and complement each other. That could still be the model for today.
SBP’s take on the issue was surely an unpopular one. I share the belief of thousands of basketball fans that our Filipino basketballers should carry and proudly wave the Philippine flag in the 2018 Asian Games. If the reason behind the pullout was that there was reduced chance of optimal team performance due to the absence of key players, will it not be unfair for those who were willing to take the chance and battle it out in the hardcourt for the glory and honor of the Philippines? I think we are emitting a negative signal to the international basketball community. I hope we do not give the impression that we do not wish to compete when we are not guaranteed victory or when our chances forvictory are slim.Such impression will also undermine the sportsmanship of Filipino athletes in general and the Filipino “never-say-die” spirit.
Basketball is a game where one team loses and the other wins. As the Filipino cliché goes, “Bilog ang bola.” What can happen in the days ahead cannot be determined conclusively solely on the basis of what is at hand. All I am trying to say is that no one will ever be able to truly say how the Philippine basketball team will perform in the 2018 Asian Games. Why can we not give these guys a chance? Sometimes, that one chance is what’s needed to bring out the best in them. Sometimes, skills coupled with a little bit of luck spells the difference.