Prior to the 2013 FIBA Asia championship game, Gilas Pilipinas had already booked a ticket to the FIBA World Cup in Spain with an inspired, unforgettable win over South Korea the previous day.
The pressure had already been lifted from their shoulders, having achieved the goal that has been written on the board since preparations began. Looking at how they celebrated, you could tell that it was the first time they’ve really been able to breathe in months.
A showdown with Iran impending, the general sentiment among Filipinos who have learned to temper expectations was, “Alright, we got what we came for. A championship would be nice, but Iran’s too big to beat.” Indeed that tiny detail would hold true by the end of the monumental championship game: they were just too big. But never for a moment did Gilas believe they couldn’t win.
With a mixture of sure belief and a fair amount of desperation, these men battled. It was testy, people were crashing to the floor, tempers were rising and Coach Chot Reyes at one point, even found time to play charades with Iranian giant Hamed Haddadi. It was clear just how badly they wanted to win.
When you see that kind of fight in your team, your ability to restrain yourself from becoming fully invested is stripped away, for better or worse.
By most measures, a championship would have been the better ending. But with the way these guys played, they've left no one unimpressed, and have left a lasting imprint on our nation that we're still capable of greatness and our innate spirit to keep on fighting is well and alive.
Well, those, and that June Mar needs to develop quickly. (Kaya June Mar, magsumikap ka!)
June Mar call-outs aside, here are our little shoutouts to the Gilas Pilipinas players who have come up with one of the most memorable and fun FIBA runs in recent memory! Congrats, mga idol! Saludo kami!
To Jayson Castro, now we know what your real name is. Why did you have to hide that from us? And why have you been your hiding your incredible ability to shred through entire defenses with your all-world speed? Thanks to you, at least we have evidence that we were actually able to score against that Goliath of a man named Hadadi, pictured below.
To Mr. Ping, your energy was astounding. People said you weren't cut out for the international game because of your skill set, but you went out there anyway (and outmuscled a few foreigners in the process) and exemplified puso. Now everyone knows that the real Sakuragi is actually Filipino, and that you're one of the few guys who can make an entire arena cheer for a rebound.
NEXT: Japeth is the Great Brown Hope!