When you talk about the Philippines being basketball-crazy, the go-to visual is the scene of kids in flip-flops, portraying their version of a Finals Game 7 in a makeshift basketball court. You’d think of people in the streets rocking the most random NBA throwback jerseys.
Basketball is everywhere there, they always say, and they’re always right. In the Philippines–no matter which part of the country you're in–you don’t really need to stretch your neck that much to find basketball. Basketball finds you. Whether it’s at the heart of suffocating cities or in the vast space of far-flung areas, the game finds a way to sneak up on you.
But when talking about hoops in the Philippines, it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling stories that exaggerate and over-romanticize the country’s, um, romance with the game. There’s the thing about the height (in a country of 5-foot somethings playing a sport for 6-foot above) and the thing about footwear, or lack thereof (for a game that requires optimal shoe traction and support).
The Philippines’ love of the game is much more than that. It’s perpetual and refined. It’s unique–not because of what it lacks, but because of how it aspires. That’s the kind of love chronicled by “Hoops Paradise: The Philippines’ Love of the Game.”
“Hoops Paradise” is a six-episode podcast series that will talk about the Philippines being basketball-crazy, sure, while giving much-deserved attention to how it all came to be and where it will all be headed. Hosted by ESPN's Cassidy Hubbarth and TITAN’s Nikko Ramos, the series is ambitious in its mission and dedicated to the goal of telling the love story as accurately and compellingly as possible.
The Hubbarth-Ramos hosting duo is an effective exercise in narrating, a pairing as automatic as “Stockton to Malone.” While Hubbarth, who is half-Filipino, serves up a master class in narrative podcasting, Ramos slams it home with deep-cut Pinoy basketball references and IYKYK (if you know, you know) anecdotes. It certainly helps that the episodes are beautifully written by Rafe Bartholomew, the author of Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball.
In the pod series’ trailer, the PBA’s winningest coach, Tim Cone, hammers down a soundbite as heavy as all his championship hardware combined:
"There's religion, politics, and basketball. Those are the three things you talk about in the Philippines."
No exaggerations there.
Aside from Cone, insights from veteran broadcaster Sev Sarmenta, national team hero Jimmy Alapag, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, among others, make it to “Hoops Paradise.” Their ties to the Philippines vary in levels; their love for the game is indisputable.
“Hoops Paradise” is another example of basketball finding another way to present itself in the Philippines, this time in audio form. Hubbarth, in the series’ intro, describes the Philippines as a place where “the soundtrack to everyday life is a bouncing ball.” This podcast will blend in perfectly with that soundtrack.
“Hoops Paradise: The Philippines’ Love of The Game” is distributed by iHeartPodcasts and will be available on the iHeartRadio app and wherever podcasts are heard.