IN a media round-table discussion, NBA Philippines managing director Carlo Singson shared how Filipinos are some of the most rabid NBA fans in the world, a fanbase strong enough to merit the recent opening of a league office in Manila.
While Singson discussed a variety of topics aside from their plans on developing the robust market here, SPIN.ph threw one question at the amiable NBA official regarding just how passionate Pinoy fans are towards the league: Who are the most popular NBA teams in the Philippines?
Singson mentioned five teams that has enjoyed popularity among Filipino fans, but take note that this is by no means a definitive list. He made it clear that the five are just some of the popular teams in the NBA among Filipinos.
Fans can make their case for the inclusion of other teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers because of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love; or the San Antonio Spurs, with their unique kind of team basketball leading into five championships including the most recent one in 2014.
However, Singson offered a more objective look, citing categories that helped him pick the teams that made his list.
“We look at, for example, social media, the ratings of the games on television, merchandise sales. It’s who you would normally suspect will be the most popular teams. When you look at some of those teams, you are not surprised,” said Singson.
The list has some of the usual suspects, with a couple of surprise picks. Here are some of the most popular NBA teams in the Philippines.
Los Angeles Lakers
When SPIN.ph asked the question about the popular teams in the NBA, the Lakers were the first team that Singson mentioned. And it shouldn't be a surprise that the Lakers is perhaps the most popular team in the Philippines.
All three of Kobe Bryant’s visits to the Philippines were met with much fanfare, and his final game in the NBA was one of the most watched games in the country and a trending topic on social media.
Also, stories about the Lakers have been one of the most read by SPIN.ph readers. And the interest in the Lakers spiked even more with the entry of Jordan Clarkson, a sophomore guard with Filipino roots and has been eyed by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas.
Despite the departure of LeBron James to Cleveland in 2015, Singson surprisingly mentioned that the Heat remained one of the most popular teams among Filipino fans.
One reason could be because of Erik Spoelstra, the team’s head coach with Filipino heritage. Spoelstra has been in the country twice and has been supporting the Gilas Pilipinas national team.
Of course, the Heat also has great players in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and a rising star in Hassan Whiteside.
The Bulls have not won an NBA title since Michael Jordan led the team to their second three-peat in 1998. Still, the team remains up there in terms of popularity in the country.
“The Bulls are still an extremely popular team,” said Singson.
Fans have remained loyal to the Bulls, who have been one of the most consistent teams in the NBA and a constant playoff contender. That is, until this season when they missed the cut in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2008.
Derrick Rose has also visited the Philippines once, which perhaps contributed to the popularity of the Bulls in the Philippines.
Celtics fans in the Philippines have been one of the most loyal fanbases in the country, with long-suffering diehards from the heydays of the original Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish celebrating when Boston finally won a championship in 2008 with the trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
Now, a new generation of players are giving Filipino Celtics fans something to cheer about as their current unsung roster coached by Brad Stevens has been making waves the past two seasons.
Golden State Warriors
With their NBA championship conquest last year, the Warriors have naturally become one of the more popular teams in the Philippines.
“I’ve seen it personally. There’s a lot more noise on social media,” said Singson.
“When you talk to our NBA Store partners, there’s a lot more jersey sales, T-shirt sales, and there are always re-ordering and re-supplying,” he added.
Singson, however, believes the Warriors have been a popular team ever since due to the number of Filipinos in the Bay Area where the team is based.
“I’ve always thought the Warriors were a popular team in the Philippines because of the Filipino connection with Golden State and the Bay Area. They haven’t been as vocal until recently when they won the championship. The flood gates opened. I always thought they are popular but now, they are a lot more vocal,” said Singson.