IT is not just a gold medal that we are after in the ongoing Incheon Asian Games; Gilas Pilipinas is waging war to regain Philippine basketball's once lofty standing this side of the world.
During the inaugural staging of the Asian Games in New New Delhi in 1951, the Filipinos, led by the versatile Carlos Loyzaga and the scoring prowess of the late greats Luis Lorenzo and Lauro Mumar, swept the five-team field that included Iran, Japan, India and Burma by an average of 38 points. (It is important to note that the games then were played outdoors with no shot clock and each basket followed by a jumpball to determine the next possession.)
The victory in 1951 set off an impressive run of four consecutive basketball gold medals, with the Philippines dominating the field in 1954, 1958 and 1962 which would be the last time we would win the Asiad gold.
Much has changed in the Asian landscape the last 52 years. China emerged as a superpower and matched the Philippine record of four consecutive golds from 1986 to 1998. From perennial whipping boys of Asia, Iran rebuilt its program and have won three of the last four stagings of the Fiba Asia Championships. Korea has remained a solid Asian contender with their trademark 'shoot now, ask questions later" philosophy.
As for the Philippines, a bronze in 1986 (that should have been at least a silver if not for that atrocious offensive foul called on a side-stepping Allan Caidic on a fastbreak), a silver by a PBA selection coached by Sonny Jaworski and another bronze by the Philippine Centennial Team coached by Tim Cone.
It will be a long and tough road toward the gold medal, no doubt.
But if our best basketball players can beat the odds and put on a golden performance in Incheon, it will be a fitting tribute to celebrate the greatness of the Forefathers of Philippine Basketball.