Saturday, April 18, 2015

Filipinos in the NBA

This entry is about Filipinos in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and why some Filipinos refuse to accept the fact that there are other Filipinos other than Erik Spoelstra in the NBA. No, this is not one of those post where idiots will say "I'm proud to be Pinoy" because the current Miami Heat coach was a Filipino (despite the fact that his Filipino blood has nothing to do with the Miami Heat's recent success).

Let me start with Filipino NBA prospects in the past. There were confirmed and "unconfirmed" reports of Filipino players getting the attentions of NBA teams and talent scouts in the past. Aside from Ricardo Brown who was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft, there was Allan Caidic whose three-points explosion in 1991 reached even the likes of European legend Dražen Petrović. Then there was Johnny Abarrientos who was just signature away from joining the NBA in the mid-1990s. More recently, Ren-Ren Ritualo scouted during the national team's visit in the US in 2005.

Raymond Townsend

Raymond Townsend
A Filipino-American played in the NBA from 1978 to 1982. His name was "Raymond Townsend", the first Filipino-American and the first Asian American ever to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft [the first Asian American ever to be drafted was Wataru Misaka in 1947 but he was not drafted in the first round]. Townsend was drafted 22nd overall in the first round by the Golden State Warriors in the 1978 NBA Draft. A product of the legendary coach John Wooden in the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), he only lasted three seasons in the NBA.

In 1980, Townsend and several NBA players (Jamaal Wilkes, Cliff Ray, Derrek Dickey and Greg Lee) toured the Philippines and played a series of exhibitions in Manila, Olongapo and Cebu. He left the NBA in 1981 after a short stint with the Indiana Pacers and went overseas to extend his basketball career. 

Anyway, many Filipinos today are still dreaming about the first Filipino in the NBA without acknowledging the fact that a Filipino-American played in the NBA before. Some do not recognized him as the first Filipino in the world's best basketball league because he was not “full-blooded”.

Some Filipinos, who are, in fact, "racist" and to these days, refused to accept the likes of Paulasi Taulava as Filipinos, will not accept nor acknowledge Raymond Townsend as the first Filipino in the NBA. Those racist Filipinos thought that being half-Filipino is not Filipino enough. They believe in the mythical "pure-blooded" Filipino race. In basketball, they prefer a 6'6 Filipino-American point guard from the US NCAA (e.g. Gabe Norwood) to play as a forward or even center because it is unfair for the shorter and less-skilled local players. So if people wonders why Philippine basketball is so stagnant or that we are way behind from countries we used to beat all the time 25 years ago. Then blame the racist mentality of some Filipinos. There primitive thinking hurts our national game and unfortunately, some Filipinos will continue to have that mentality until their mythical "pure and full-blooded" Filipino set his foot in the NBA.

If we re-phrased it to first "homegrown" Filipino player in the NBA instead of first "pure and full-blooded" Filipino then its more acceptable and I would love to see that happens.


Erik Spoelstra

"You can take a Filipino out of the Philippines, but you can never take out the Philippines out of a Filipino" ~Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat Head Coach

The first Filipino American head coach in the NBA and in my opinion, Pat Riley’s protégé/heir apparent. He was Riley’s assistant coach when Miami Heat, lead by Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade, captured the 2006 NBA crown.

Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat Big Three
Spoelstra, son of a former NBA executive, was a former standout of the University of Portland before playing professional basketball in Germany for a couple of years. After his playing stint, Spoelstra joined a young Miami Heat franchise in 1995 as a video coordinator and from there climb his way to scouting and coaching roles.

In 2008, he succeeded Pat Riley as head coach of the Miami Heat after 13 years in the franchise. Since his coaching debut in 2008, he lead Miami to five consecutive NBA play-offs appearances and recently, with a line-up that includes Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh (perhaps a revival of Chicago’s Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman of the 1990s), lead his team to three consecutive NBA finals losing his debut finals as team's head coach to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 but then went on to win back-to-back NBA championships after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunders in 2012 and the seasoned San Antonio Spurs in 2013. The San Antonio Spurs returned the favor in 2014 and won just their fifth NBA title in the last 15 years.

NBA Championships: 3 (2006, 2012, 2013) [as an assistant coach in 2006]
NBA Finals Appearances: 5 (2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
NBA Eastern Conference Titles: 5 (2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)


Naturalized Filipino

2013 NBA Finals: Erik Spoelstra and Chip Engelland
Not many Filipinos today even realized that the back-to-back NBA Finals Series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs in 2013 and 2014 featured Filipinos in both sides’ benches. One of course is Miami's Erik Spoelstra while the other is none other former Duke standout and Spurs assistant coach Arthur "Chip" Engelland. Engelland was one of the naturalized Filipinos tapped to reinforced Danding Cojuangco's NCC national squad in the 1980s. His finest moment in the Philippine jersey was when he led the Philippines to victory over the United States in the 1985 William Jones Cup where he scored 43 points while his protégée Allan Caidic leading the locals with 21 points.

After the EDSA Revolution, Engelland returns to the United States and played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) and the World Basketball League. In 1999, he was hired as an assistant coach by the Detroit Pistons after spending a couple years as Grant Hill's personal shooting coach. Engelland went on to serve as an assistant coach to the Denver Nuggets (2003-2005) and the San Antonio Spurs (2005-present).

Engelland's greatest asset as an assistant coach was of course his shooting skill. He is credited for sharpening the shooting strokes of PBA legend Allan Caidic and NBA stars Steve Kerr, Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Juwan Howard, Tony Parker, and, most recently, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The presence of five of his shooting students in the bench of both Miami Heat (Battier, Howard) and his team San Antonio Spurs (Parker, Leonard, Green) in the 2013 NBA Finals was a tribute to him as the best shooting coach in the NBA.

NBA Championships: 3 (2005, 2007, 2014) [as an assistant coach]
NBA Finals Appearances: 4 (2005, 2007, 2013, 2014)
NBA Western Conference Titles: 4 (2005, 2007, 2013, 2014)


Jordan Clarkson

In 2014, the Washington Wizards picked Jordan Clarkson as the 46th pick overall in the Second Round of the NBA Draft before trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Clarkson became just the second Filipino (third if we count Nate Robinson and fourth if we count Andre Blatche) to play in the NBA since Raymond Townsend. He began his career under the tutelage of NBA legend Steve Nash and formed the first all-Asian backcourt partnership in the NBA history with Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin.
Proud to represent the Philippines (J Diaz/

The 2014-15 season almost made another history, in addition to Clarkson, fellow Filipino-Americans Stephen Holt (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Aaron Craft (Golden State Warriors) signed contracts before being waived by their respective teams. Craft went on to play for the Santa Cruz Warriors (the same team that drafted Japeth Aguilar in the 2012 NBA D-League Draft) and won the 2015 NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year.


Nate Robinson: A Filipino-American?

Nate Robinson
Last January 2010, former NBA Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson claimed that he's a 1/8 Filipino through his mother side. Robinson was a former New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunders, Golden State Warriors, and Chicago Bulls point guard. He was drafted 21st overall by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Nate Robinson's claimed are interesting but thanks to one of our anonymous readers he posted a link in the comments about lil Nate's mother (Renee Busch) explaining the truth of Robinson's Filipino past.

Renee Busch explained that Nate grew up in a Filipino community and learning Filipino values but she pointed out that as far as she knows, Nate Robinson has no Filipino blood. However, the author of the article said that she was uncertain and referred him to Nate’s grandmother.

  • Marcus Douthit, the current naturalized Filipino reinforcement for the Gilas Pilipinas national team, was drafted 56th overall in the second round of the 2004 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He lead the Philippines to a second place finished at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.
  • Andre Blatche, the current naturalized Filipino reinforcement for the Gilas Pilipinas national team, was drafted 49th overall in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. He went on to play for the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before leading the Philippines' valiant efforts in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.


  1. Truly, basketball has been the Pinoys best game of all times.

  2. Create Video ContestMay 18, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    I love to watch it

  3. NASCAR Licensed Sports Direct strive to do our best and over time this list will become even better. And remember, because this is a live, online directory, it will be constantly changing. I will be adding licensees as I learn about them, and deleting those who exit the licensed sports products business as well.


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