ASIAN GAMES THROWBACK | Philippines’ last basketball silver

1 month ago

(AUGUST 15, 2018) – The Philippines has finally figured out if it will participate in this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, sending a 12-man pool built around the core of PBA team Rain or Shine.

It has been an imperative for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas — and a little long ago, the Basketball Association of the Philippines — to tap the services of players from the PBA, the country’s top basketball league. After all, these cagers are regarded among the best players in the country and are expected to deliver for this basketball-crazy nation.

But the tradition of sending an all-professional team can be traced back to 1990, the first time the country formed a squad composed of Philippine basketball’s cream of the crop, hoping to recapture lost glory.

Like this year, the 1990 edition of the Philippine team was also a product of crammed decision-making, having been given only two weeks to prepare for the 11th Asiad in China.

The squad, dubbed the “Philippine Dream Team,” was bannered by the likes of no less than PBA all-time leading scorer Mon Fernandez, fellow four-time MVP Alvin Patrimonio, high-flyer Samboy Lim, knock-down shooter Allan Caidic, top playmaker Hector Calma, and young stars Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc — a few of arguably the most fabled players in the country’s history.

To top it all off, the team was coached by the Living Legend himself, Robert Jaworski.

 

1990 RP team. COURTESY: POCH JOROLAN
1990 RP team. COURTESY: POCH JOROLAN

 

For context, FIBA modified its rule in 1989 and had allowed club or commercial players to participate in international events, leading to the deal that sent an all-pro lineup for the quadrennial meet.

The rule change proved to yield drastic effects to the gravity of the international basketball scene, since it also made way for the birth of the U.S. Olympic Dream Team led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and coach Chuck Daly in 1992.

Upon arriving in Beijing for the Asiad, the Philippine team attracted a lot of attention, parading an all-pro squad for the first time.

Fielding an erstwhile amateur squad, the Philippines is one of two teams that have four-peated in the tournament, when it won the first four editions from 1951 to 1962 behind the legendary Caloy Loyzaga.

The Filipinos have never tasted another gold since then, which takes the 1990 team hype to a whole new level.

The Philippines got off to a surging start in the preliminaries, easily dumping Pakistan by 48 points in the opening game, 129-81. It followed up with big wins against Japan and North Korea.

But the rousing start proved to be short-lived as hosts China dealt the Filipinos one of the biggest blows in tournament history, bludgeoning them by 65 points, 125-60.

It was 6″7′ wing Ma Jian, who later on played college hoops for the University of Utah, that played a huge role behind the mandhandling with his athleticism and shooting. Ironically, he would also serve as an import in 1996 for Hapee Toothpaste in the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League.

Although they rebounded against the United Arab Emirates and Japan to arrange a rematch with the hosts in the finals, the Philippines still couldn’t figure out the Chinese puzzle and lost by a relatively narrower margin, 74-90.

Aside from the bridesmaid finish, the team also got extra consolation when Caidic and Lim were selected to the Mythical Five.

To this date, the Philippines has yet to replicate at this runner-up finish, having won practically nothing aside from the bronze in 1998. But that’s another story.  Randell Ritumalta