I used to play hoops before my teens. I never was good at it. I was clumsy at dribbling, unable to bounce the ball between my legs or behind my back. Rebounding was my forte. I was like Dennis Rodman but much more handsome and none of the body paintings and piercings.
As a child I was introduced to professional basketball – the PBA and NBA. My father was addicted to it. He adorned our living room with posters of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Karim Ulajawoon. He was a big fan of the LA Lakers, Chicago Bulls, the Ginebra franchise and Robert Jaworski, Jr.
I remember my father’s would turn sour when Gineba loses a game. His favorite team winning the championship would mean a trip to Ricky’s, a local grocery store, to buy a gallon of ice cream.
It was no surprise that my interest was piqued when Rafe Bartholomew, who lived in the country for 3 years to study Philippine basketball, released a book aptly titled ‘Pacific Rims’.
The book strives to explain the Filipino craze to that orange-colored ball and the author achieves this quite successfuly.
Bartholomew narrates the local basketball history from the early 20th century when women (and not men) first played the game, to the golden age of basketball in the 60s and 70s (our country even qualifying for the 1972 Olympics), to the introduction of Fil-Ams to the PBA courtesy of the MBA .
The book is not totally a sports book. The author wisely inserts his experience with papaitan, getting pulled from the audience to join a game in the now-defunct Wowowee, and his hilarious stab at soap opera acting via GMA-7’s Bakekang.
He also mentions his travels to Adams in Ilocos Norte, a mini-basketball tournament he joined in Boracay, and to basketball match in Cebu pitting gays against midgets (unanos).
The book is not a boring read. There are basketball jargon that leave me baffled but these are few and far between that you don’t get exasperated trying to decipher the sporting language. It is hilarious too. And shows that we have made basketball, a universal sport, uniquely our own.