Filipinos love to be around basketball. We don't even need to play it to show our passion for the sport.
A shared experience for a lot of Filipinos growing up was just hanging out at basketball courts, making friends, and waiting for the golden hour in the afternoon when the sun’s still bright and the cool breeze starts to fill the court. That was the best time to play. And if the grown-ups were hogging the court, there was nothing wrong with just hanging around the sidelines.
We’re drawn to basketball, just as Patrick Omega was drawn to the Phoenix Suns. Omega is a Filipino who grew up in Phoenix. Though he was miles away from the Philippines, his roots are still intrinsically Filipino.
Omega grew up around sports because of his older brother. His childhood superheroes were Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. His first NBA memory was watching Robert Horry's infamous game-winning triple against the Sacramento Kings. He naturally became a Suns fan, taking in the exciting “Seven-Seconds-or-Less” team as a kid.
When he turned 16, his mom told him about an opportunity that seemed perfect for any basketball fan.
“The Suns used to have open interviews. If you're 16 to 19 years old, you just show up to the stadium with a résumé. For some reason, my mom found it online,” Omega told NBA.com Philippines. “I showed up when I was 16, 17 years old. For some reason, they hired me. Luckily, I've been here ever since. Luckily, I've been with my co-workers as well. We've been working together for numerous years.”
Since 2013, Omega has been a court attendant for the Suns. His day starts three hours before tip-off, helping players and coaches prepare for the game in whatever way he can. That usually involves helping players warm up and shoot, but it doesn’t stop there. Anything from laundry to food orders, Omega and his co-workers attend to it. During the game, Omega often has a mop or a towel in hand for keeping the floor dry. After the game, he and his team are still there to clean up and help any player who wants to get some shots up.
Essentially, Omega’s job is to make the quiet moments before games even more peaceful for players. Whatever they need, he is willing to help. The regular season grind demands a lot out of NBA players. Omega gets a first-hand look at what it takes to play at the highest level of basketball in the world.
“NBA players, for the most part, carry themselves with a lot of professionalism. They're here to work. This is their career, their livelihood. They come in, they're very respectful. It's an honor to work with them every day,” he said. “They're world-class athletes. To see the work they put in to warm up before the game, how they mentally prepare themselves, it's very rewarding to see.”
For some, a lot of what Omega does is the tedium they want to avoid. After all, the best part of the NBA experience is watching actual basketball games. No one wants to watch warmups, except maybe for Filipinos who can’t help but be around hoops. The NBA has developed a global presence, but Filipinos love the league and basketball uniquely – a fact not lost on Omega as he strives to be a good representation for Filipinos in the NBA.
“Basketball has always been part of my DNA, it's part of my family's DNA, and obviously, our country's DNA. It's something that I cherish so much as a Filipino. Being here, being part of this community, I lucked out into finding an interview,” said Omega. “It's a special mantle for someone to call you a Filipino, being in America and working in the NBA. I carry that as a big point of pride with me.”
Omega is a proud Suns fan. Working for his hometown team and being close to the players have always been a treat for him. He first got there when the Suns were floundering in the middle of the Western Conference standings. He had courtside seats for some seasons that a lot of people, even Suns fans, would rather forget.
The best part of the job is getting to witness the Suns’ rise firsthand. He was there when Devin Booker was a hotshot rookie. He has seen Deandre Ayton – his favorite Suns player – mature into his potential as a former top draft pick. Most importantly, he was there for the Suns’ NBA Finals run last season. For someone who was there in the front row through all the ups and downs, that incredible run meant a lot more to Omega than to the average fan.
“To go from no fans to a packed arena... I can vividly remember myself on the court at that moment, almost about to cry,” Omega said about the Suns’ first playoff game at Footprint Center last season, when the league began allowing fans back in the venue. “It was an emotional moment for me, just realizing that wow, we really made it here. After all these years, we're here. I felt nothing but pride for my city, for my community.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Patrick Omega found his place with the Suns. Filipinos, after all, are at home in the NBA.