Basketball is life, even for Filipinos in Japan

Kenbo hovers over Jayson with a hook shot while Ramir, Jeffrey and Modesto prepare for the rebound. Jhun looks on from further back.

Nothing brings together Filipinos in a foreign country than a basketball game. Maybe a Sunday mass or a birthday party comes close but those are dull affairs compared to an action-packed game of hoops.

Basketball is a team sport, where individual contribution and cooperation with the rest of the team are essential elements in winning.

In the midgame action, with sweat flowing and hearts furiously pumping blood and adrenaline throughout the body, stress from work is forgotten, petty squabbles are put aside; what matters is the split-second decision to make a pass to your teammate or to execute the lay-up yourself; to shoot from the 3-point mark or to drive through two or three defenders to the ring.

Rooting around in an old hard drive, I found these photos of a basketball game that Filipinos in Arakawaoki in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki played in that I shot almost 20 years ago.

A nostalgic look at a moment in time when a group of Filipinos who could still run the length of a basketball court without panting came together and had fun playing a game that they love.

These photos were taken in 2004, 18 years ago, with a D70, one of Nikon’s first digital SLRs.

Ariel waits in anticipation while Ryan has to make a quick decision: should he go for it and hope for a foul, or pass the ball to Jeffrey for an easy lay-up?

Kenbo gets the rebound.

The defense does not fuck around: Jayson hopes for an easy 2 points but is double-teamed by Jeffrey and Kenbo under the ring.

Jayson loses the ball on a fast-break, with pressure from Arthur.

All that almost non-stop action deserves a break. Kenbo looks on while the action is on the other side of the court.

San-en NeoPhoenix

Short half-time talk:

These last years have seen several high-profile Filipino basketballers recruited by the Japanese B.League, spearheaded by Ateneo Blue Eagles star Thirdy Ravena, who signed up with San-en NeoPhoenix for the 2020-21 season.

He was then followed in quick succession by his older brother Kiefer Ravena (Shiga Lakestars), Bobby Ray Parks Jr. (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Kobe Paras (Niigata Albirex BB), Dwight Ramos (Toyama Grouses), Juan Gomez de Liaño (Earthfriends Tokyo Z), Javi Gomez de Liaño (Ibaraki Robots) and Kemark Cariño (Aomori Wat’s).

Although voices in the PBA have expressed concern about the Philippine league’s viability if this “exodus” of players continue, I’m glad Filipino talent is being recognized abroad and awarded with contracts.

Let’s hope more Filipino basketballers get signed up to play in Japan!

Ibaraki Robots

Lawrence picks up the action but retreats from Jayson and Modesto’s tight defense. Both attacker and defenders look amused.

Modesto tries to block Ryan’s attempt but falls short.

The action is heating up: Ryan and Jayson go for the rebound!

Another attemp by Ryan is double-blocked by Kenbo and Jeffrey.

And he goes down with a cramp! Ariel the medic to the rescue, while Ramir and Modesto offer words of encouragement.

It goes very well! Everybody shares a light moment after the cramp is massaged away.

Kenbo poses for the camera, while Ryan rests his tired legs.

Cleaning time! Everybody does his part in sweeping the floor. Ryan gets a pass.

Hahaha ang babata pa tingan nila kuya arthur

ngayon puro mga ojiisan na, hindi na makatakbo :grinning: