"Basketball is the only professional team sport in the Philippines and plays an enormous role in society. A basketball court, along with an outdoor market, a Catholic church, and a municipal hall, is a hallmark of every town plaza in the archipelago. Even against the starkest odds, Filipinos find ways to play the game. They cut, slide, pivot, and leap in flip-flops or bare feet. They attach wire rims to rusty car hoods and lash the homemade backboards onto coconut trees.Now I wish I did not stop watching PBA games.
PBA players are as famous as movie stars and politicians; in fact, after they retire from playing ball, they often become one or the other. On the surface, Ellis' life as an import in this hoops-obsessed nation is sweet. The Alaska franchise provides Ellis with an apartment, a maid, a car, and a driver. He makes more money in a month than most Filipino families earn in a year. When fans spot him in malls and restaurants, they call him "idol," ask for high fives and autographs, and take photos with him.
Notoriety feels good once you're used to it. Although African Americans have been in the Philippines since some arrived as soldiers in the Philippine-American War at the end of the 19th century, tall black athletes in Manila are still exotic. Upon seeing Ellis, people occasionally act like visitors at a petting zoo. When he wanders through the aisles of one of Manila's labyrinthine flea markets, browsing for pirated DVDs or knockoff designer clothes, people wait for him to turn his back, then run behind him to measure their heights. The boldest among them reach up to feel his hair, an object of endless fascination among straight-haired Filipinos."
Thursday, December 13, 2007
PBA in Action
Read this great article about Rosell Ellis and the PBA via ESPN's TrueHoop blog