THE MYTHICAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE PHILIPPINES AND BASKETBALL
Words by Raoul Reinoso,
Photography by Kevin Couliau,
Basketball isn’t officially the national sport of the Philippines, but it might as well be. There is a hoop on almost every street corner, basketball jerseys and shorts are part of everyday clothing, and professional, even collegiate players, are household names. There has long been a connection between the game and the country, dating back to pre-colour TV World Cup appearances, or pre-three-point-line Asian dominance. The rest of the world and even the region may have caught up with the Philippines in terms of knowledge and ability, but the love for the sport is still unrivalled.
Exposure to the game comes early in life: parents telling their children about players long-retired, bedtime stories being replaced by tales of the PBA finals live from now-dilapidated arenas, or Mike-over-Ehlo on a fuzzy old television set. The basketball itself is a staple toddler present, and watching dad play in his weekend league is a common family tradition. In fact, the joining of your first league, getting your own uniform for the first time, is a milestone moment for a child, sort of like a hoops knighting.
Everywhere you look, the game plays a central role: basketball is on primetime television almost nightly: neighbourhood leagues are the backbone of community building, and achieving success on the hardwood is life’s great equaliser. It’s an opportunity, a dream available to all. Countless families have been lifted to higher stations because of the success attained by one of theirs playing ball.
What used to be a nation fixated on just one league – the PBA – is now a country with its eyes set on basketball at almost every level. The game, wherever it may be played in the world, is more available than ever. The PBA runs almost year-round, never going more than two months without being in-season. College basketball via the UAAP and the NCAA regularly make front-page headlines, dominate TV ratings, sell out arenas and take over office, school, and dinner table conversations nationwide.
The recent success of the national team has also reinvigorated what already is a rabid fascination over all things hoops, and has infused it with nationalistic pride, teaching a whole new generation to wave the flag proudly. Officially recognised by FIBA as the world’s most valuable fans, Filipinos are madly in love with the game at every level.
The NBA might as well be a local league now as well, what with advancements in technology and social media, bringing the world’s best basketball association to TV screens and mobile devices everywhere in the country.
It is no exaggeration to say that the game lives and breathes within the very fibre of the nation, and its love affair with each other burns brighter now than it ever has.
As the country most enamoured by the game, the ecosystem created by, and built around, basketball is diverse and dynamic. In the US, hoops is closely related to hip-hop, fashion and pop culture. In the Philippines, the game takes life off-court in so many other shapes and forms – a phenomenon that speaks to the depth of the connection between athlete, fan and sport.
In the middle of this love affair between a nation and a game sits the reason behind it – and the reason for Titan. The first and only basketball specialty store in the Philippines, Titan is more than just a provider of footwear, clothing or accessories necessary to the game. It stands at the center of Pinoy hoop culture – a buoy both causing and riding the waves around it.
A sanctuary for the game, Titan is now seven-stores strong across Metro Manila, combining the barbershop concept with a theme and experience authentic to basketball. The mission is to provide customers with a world-class selection of products that will not only help them with their game, but also bring the many moving parts and elements of global hoops closer to home.
Inspired by a fictional AAU team, the Deer Valley Titans (DVT) is a collection of athletes and personalities who embody the Titan spirit – a deep respect and affection for the game, unconquerable determination, and a team-first attitude that bonds the Titans together. Headlined by national team players, the reigning four-time MVP, the most exciting young talent, and even collegiate and youth standouts, the DVT represent the best basketball players and the best people that Filipinos strive to be. It is with their on-court success that Titan raises the lightning fist in celebration.
From the elite to the grassroots, one of Titan’s many endeavours aimed towards raising and developing the future of the sport is the annual Titan Summer Jam. The ‘liga’ is a staple in every Filipino’s life. Whether you’re playing in one of these summer leagues happening in every city, village and barangay in the country, or just watching it like the community event that it is, everyone has a liga story. Titan elevates that experience into a weekend that reproduces everything the liga stands for, only better, smarter, and with higher competition.
Since its inception, Titan Summer Jam alumni have gone on to compete in elite high school and even collegiate tournaments, carrying the torch lit first at a Titan tourney.
In truth, when it comes to the Philippines and basketball, there is an audacity that lives as strong as the love it dares to feel and fight for. Single games become lifelong tales, while outstanding players grow in size and reputation to become heroes and legends.
Titan understands this more than anyone else – that the legendary and the ordinary aren’t that distant. That the re-imagining of gods and lightning and mythological forces is not only appropriate, but in fact necessary when it comes to attempting to represent the deep, historic, in-our-veins connection that we as a people have with an orange ball and the sound it makes when it rips through nylon.
It’s like music. It’s a thunderclap following a lightning bolt in the sky.
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