Saturday, June 09, 2007

How to make it as a hoops star in the Philippines

Here is one foreigner's view of basketball in the Philippines. From Slate.
Basketball is a tall man's game. But in the Philippines, where men are short and hoops is an obsession, something's got to give. Several native "big men" are barely taller than 6 feet 3 inches, the standard height for NBA guards. Dunks are so rare in the PBA that the league has toyed with the idea of making slams worth three points. The league adds a dash of high-wire athleticism by allowing each team to hire one foreign-born star. But permitting American 7-footers to play would wreak havoc among the Lilliputian locals. As a result, the PBA bans imports taller than 6 feet 6 inches.

The rule works. The PBA's foreigners are a versatile bunch: pure shooters, workhorses who do a little of everything, burly inside operators. But while the imports typically dominate games, they still leave room for the best Filipino players—guards who whirl through defenses and score on twisting layups—to do what they do best.

The height limit may be good for the PBA, but it forces tall players into a Catch-22. After a lifetime spent exaggerating their height to look more appealing to scouts, players must try to become shorter to play in the Philippines. The teams, too, have an incentive to sneak in over-height imports—every inch gives you a competitive advantage. As a result, foreigners in the PBA, and the franchises who bring them over, have come up with several shrinking techniques. Some of the methods are tricky, some are pseudoscientific, and others are just plain batty.

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