Filipino Heritage Night: NBA's close connection with Filipino community

Published November 9, 2021, 6:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

The Warriors and the Knicks both celebrated Filipino Heritage Night on Monday (PHT), which featured Filipino artists, music, delicacies, and of course, NBA personalities and fans.

Warriors fans wearing limited edition tees for Filipino Heritage Night. (Photo: Chase Center)

Like any other home game, the starters for the Golden State Warriors were introduced one by one to blaring beats, spotlights, and fireworks. Except this wasn’t any other home game. The Warriors’ hype man Franco Finn had extra juice for this one. 

As he called out the names of the Warriors’ starting five, with his voice booming across the Chase Center, Finn wasn’t just playing hype man for the Warriors. It was, after all, Filipino Heritage Night. 

Finn—wearing a black hoodie with the iconic Philippine sun, the three stars, and a mash-up of the Philippine flag and the Warriors logo—took the role of hype man for all his kababayan in the building.  

Filipino Heritage Night has been an annual Warriors tradition, not just because a large chunk of Dub Nation is Filipino but also because of the ties to Warriors legend Raymond Townsend, the first Filipino-American to play in the NBA.

This latest version of Filipino Heritage Night was special. It had the limited edition tees designed by Filipino artist Orly Locquiao. It had the Consul General of the Philippines in San Francisco, Neil Ferrer, ringing the game bell. It had the Sikaran-Aramis Academy of Philippines Martial Arts doing their thing. 

It even had former Warrior Kelenna Azubuike chowing down on lumpia at the broadcast booth. (Quick aside: the lumpia is from Sarap Shop, a Filipino joint at the Chase Center. It’s vegan and has curry in it. It’s called Impossible Curry Lumpia, which raises a couple of questions. Was this Chef Curry approved? Is this a fave of any from the Warriors roster?)

What made the night even more special is that an actual Filipino-American was playing on the court opposite the Warriors. Jalen Green, this year’s second overall draft pick, suited up for the Houston Rockets and put on his usual high-flying, logic-defying show.

A little wink to Filipinos in the crowd came at the start of the second half. Green ran the break then went way, way up, punching home a dunk to add another clip to his season-long highlight reel.

Just a week earlier, it was Green’s home court in Houston that celebrated Filipino Heritage Night. The visitor then was former Gilas player and current Utah Jazz flamethrower Jordan Clarkson.

RELATED: First of many: Clarkson and Green inspire a nation

Out east, Madison Square Garden also honored Filipinos with their own version of Heritage Night. Filipino vibes radiated throughout the game between the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

“Filipino Heritage Night” in giant font was announced from the jumbotron before tipoff. Fans got a rare blue Knicks cap with the Philippine flag embedded on the side. The national anthem was performed by The Outstanding Filipinos in America.

Those with Filipino roots across the league had their own mixtape—from Green to Clarkson to champion coach Erik Spoelstra to Knicks training and conditioning director Erwin Valencia. But the most unexpected and Filipino thing that happened was when the MSG speakers blasted bars from Filipino rap group Ex-Battalion, the perfect soundtrack to game highlights.

Filipino energy is strong across the league, perhaps stronger now than ever with the arrival—and occasional eruptions—of Jalen Green. There are now two players with Filipino roots playing in the NBA, the most ever.

There are more and more Filipinos behind the scenes doing awesome and inspiring work across the league. The presence is encompassing – we have content creators like Jake Soriano of the Sacramento Kings, social media managers like Lizelle Lauron of the Dallas Mavericks, trainers and performance coaches like Ernie DeLosAngeles of G League Ignite, and assistant coaches like Jimmy Alapag of the Stockton Kings

The only hope now is that there are more lumpia to go around.