Remy Martin is the new Kansas University Jayhawks point guard for the 2021-2022 NCAA basketball season. He is Filipino American and proud to represent his community. In an interview for the Kansas City Star, he stated “I just want to show people that the Filipino heritage is here, that they can play at the highest level”. Martin spent four years playing at Arizona State University, went undrafted in the 2021 NBA, maintained his college eligibility, and transferred to play as a Jayhawk his 5th year in the NCAA. He has averaged 14 points per game in his NCAA career and his team is currently 4th in the Big 12. Remy Martin is one example of the many connections the United States and the Philippines have in basketball.
There are other standout Filipino athletes on the United States basketball stage this year. After a successful run in the First Women’s Serbia League, Jack Animam is expected to join the 2022 WNBA draft and be the first Filipina in the league. Nineteen-year-old Kai Sotto, who recently made his professional basketball debut in Australia, is eligible for the 2022 NBA draft and could be the first full-blooded Filipino in the NBA. In July 2021, Jalen Green made history as highest drafted Asian American NBA player, and the 3rd athlete of Filipino decent, when he was drafted to the Houston Rockets. Before being drafted, he traveled to the Philippines twice to play in the annual National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) invitational tournament. NBA history was made in October 2021, when Jalen Green and Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz were the first two Filipino-Americans to share the court, in a Houston stadium decorated to celebrate Filipino-American history month.
Beyond celebrity basketball superstars, a love of basketball is shared by many of the 4 million Filipino Americans. For example, Virginia Beach, home to one of the largest Filipino American communities in the United States, has a Filipino American Basketball Association, which hosts many different recreational basketball teams.
In the Philippines, love of basketball goes back over a hundred years and stems from US colonialism. When the Philippines became a US colony after the Spanish-American War in 1898, Christian missionaries, who were often part of the YMCA, shared the game with the Filipino population. After the game was introduced, people in the Philippines embraced it. The education system and the accessibility of the sport, since it requires limited equipment, limited space, and no set number of players for a social game, allowed the game to thrive. In 1936, the Philippines national team placed 5th at the Olympics in Berlin, Germany. In 1975, the Philippines National Basketball Association was created, the first professional basketball league outside of the United States. Now, the Philippines is home to one of the biggest international fanbases of the NBA and has some of the best basketball teams in the Indo-Pacific.
From a sports arena in Houston Texas, to an apartment complex in downtown Manila, a love of basketball unites the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. The history of basketball in the Philippines is one example of the impact of the United States on Filipino culture. Now, Filipinos are making an impact on United States basketball.
Abbigail Hull is a Projects Coordinator at the East-West Center in Washington