We can't even count the number of times Filipinos were accused of being the biggest NBA bandwagon fans online. Support for the Golden State Warriors, or in local parlance "kapit sa matatag," is usually the target of this vitriol.
But let's face it, there's always that one Facebook friend who only appears come Finals time, worshipping the clear favorites, spewing mere trash-talk disguised as basketball analysis. These are the dudes who don't know who Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Steve Kerr are, and use too much emojis when posting about Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant. Although that's not the case with the rest of the pro league's local following.
Here, FHM looks at the Hamptons Five to examine how each All-Star appeals to different aspects of Pinoy fandom.
Everybody who’s ever played streetball in the Philippines knows that guy. He never played pro (possibly even amateur) and shoots the ball with a half-smirk, hand in his face. He’s the guy you stop passing to when he starts missing four contested threes in a row while you’re open on the baseline, waving for a pass. The guy who, occasionally, makes a barrage of shots to win the game and acts as if he knew every shot was a sure thing.
This was Stephen Curry before Stephen Curry perfected Stephen Curry.
For better or worse, he’s the guy kids will look up to and model their game after. Curry’s unbridled style of play will either usher in the next generation of Philippine basketball or set back basketball development for several years due to the lack of fundamentals. Either way, Curry is changing the game for good, and people love him for it.
Curry’s game resembles one of joy and freedom: he takes shots other people were taught not to take, he shoots in a way no other person outside of the Curry family was ever taught to shoot, and celebrates every made shot like he deserves to make that shot. This is unprecedented in scope and style. Curry embodied how every kid wanted to shoot in their imaginations. But he was also the epitome of every ill-advised shot that a coach would bench you for—every aspiring player’s unchecked basketball ID.
While Kobe, Jordan, and Iverson all reveled in irrational confidence, at least they played within the confines of the court’s topography.
Suddenly, Curry was shooting quick release threes off the dribble on dangerously risky screens, and was making them at a record pace. Sometimes, he did it off a fastbreak. Curry and the Dubs broke statistics: after all, a low-percentage shot is only such until you make it—then it becomes a 1.000 shot. A make is a make.
His stylistic impropriety on the court juxtaposes his all-NBA propriety off it—Curry is by far the safest and most marketable personality in today’s pantheon of superstars. Curry has the competitive edge while still keeping it PG-13 in the eyes of many. Flanked by a universally respected dad, a cool mom, and a fangirling wife, Steph represents the nuclear family at its finest—an aspirational everyday guy whose Twitter account the NBA wouldn’t have to double-check every now and then.
He’s the guy your girlfriend will recognize on TV and will likely follow on Instagram. He’s the guy your barber will likely fawn over while completing your hard part. His name will be the one your teammate will shout the next time he shoots an ill-advised three.
But what about everyone else though? What about your know-it-all-friends? Chances are, they don’t share the same rosy appreciation for the Dubs.
Let’s face it. PG-13 isn’t cool enough for NBA fans. They want aggression, Twitter innuendos, double-edged interviews and controversy. They don’t want smiles and shimmies—they want talkbacks and staredowns and an eff-you attitude. Nobody likes the nice guy, at least not for NBA hardcore fans.
Curry can sometimes be too gentrified. Too incubated. Too harmless.
This is where Draymond Green comes in.
Green has an aspirational story, too. Late pick. Bench guy. Glue guy. Against all odds, suddenly, he’s a perennial All-NBA defender and anchor for the Warriors Death Lineup.
But several shoves, elbows, ejections, and testicle blows later, we are shown Green’s true identity: the Goon. The underappreciated guy with humble stats and a less humble attitude. The gulang guy. The guy everybody hates playing against but loves playing with (and regardless which side you’re on, will appreciate).
There’s a certain type of appeal with Draymond’s physical “enforcer” style of play, the “bad cop” to Curry’s “good cop.” Controversy creates exposure. Attitude equals edge. Green is the alcoholic spike to the Dubs’ quirky mocktail, and more importantly, he backs it up with stellar play. Despite his seemingly self-centered attitude, his game is anything but. To contrast Curry’s occasional insistence to score, Draymond finds the time to carry and distribute the ball when everyone else has his hot hand on.
Filipinos can relate to this to: the guy who will have your back no matter what happens, even if he’s typically the one flailing knees and elbows all over the place. The one who finds you when you’re open even if you know you’re not that great of a shooter. The guy who will pump you up even if you missed three straight shots.
Experts will appreciate the fact that contrary to his brutish appearance, Green specializes in a much more intellectual kind of play, a style that values the small details and statless actions that contribute to the Warriors’ greatness. Green is collecting the lowest points in the playoffs since his rookie year, but is averaging career highs in rebounds and assists. He’s not the buko basketball prototype—he’s a natural evolution of it.
But then there’s vitriol against the Warriors of late. It’s the same negative energy that used to pervade LeBron’s days in Miami. Nobody wants to see super-teams steamroll through the league. No one likes to see the rich get richer.
Kevin Durant, similar to Curry, used to be the NBA’s good-guy poster child. Armed with a cute backpack and an admirable lack of loquaciousness, Durant was almost labeled the good guy.
Then immediately after Nike started KD’s campaign as one of the best players ever, a new persona was quickly introduced. A no-effs-given KD, one that didn’t give a crap what other people thought of him. Suddenly we were introduced to a more cold-hearted 7’1” freakshow who could dominate the game just by standing on the elbows.
Then came the invisible war with Westbrook followed by the burner account scandal and suddenly, KD wasn’t so PG-13 anymore. He needed to be watched, restrained.
The hate intensified when he pulled of a Mini-Decision and joined the team he lost to just months before. Durant, then the best two-way player in the game, joined historically the best regular season team in the NBA.
Suddenly, this was KD’s team and not Steph’s. Some of the universal glamour faded. Wait, isn’t Steph supposed to be the one shooting the last shot? There were questions in the fan base, but deep in their subconscious the answer was clear: Kevin Durant was more physically equipped to lead the team. Curry was still the ignition switch to the engine, but Durant was the afterburner.
Purists were given a weapon with which to hate the Warriors with: a guy that wasn’t supposed to be there. A cheat code. The Standhardinger to the San Miguel Beermen. The destabilizer.
Stylistically, things also changed for the Dubs, and much of that is clearly seen this season. Instead of the Warrior’s active motion offense, they now seem to rely heavily on iso plays and contested threes—a hallmark of an unstoppable player making his mark on an unstoppable team. The Dubs, once a very democratic offense, are slowly being poisoned by Harden and the Rockets’ isolation contagion.
Filipinos will no doubt find it hard to relate to Durant. After all, he’s effectively an agile 7’1” wing with a limitless wingspan. Those usually don’t exist in the Philippines. There’s something cold, foreign, and antagonistic about how Durant goes about his business—and this will likely add mild hostility to an otherwise bandwagon-friendly Warriors.
To many pundits, the Dubs are no longer universally liked, but they are universally respected. And more importantly, they are still universally feared.
But that won’t stop a guy who doesn’t give a crap about what other people think. That’s why despite the mood swing, he’s still operating consistently from his career averages, and he’s still one of, if not the hardest player to guard in the NBA.
Everyone will appreciate Curry’s contribution to the changing NBA game, regardless of whether they want to admit it. More people will be more on the fence with Green and Durant, the bad cop and the badass.
But the Dubs have a secret weapon, and in the global game, he’s all that matters.
All hail #ChinaKlay.
Despite not having concrete proof of ingesting marijuana on any media outlet, there’s also no physical proof that Klay Thompson isn’t everybody’s favorite stoner.
As majestic and picture-perfect his jumper is, it’s equally impressive how Klay manages to not feel any remorse over the inane things he has done in life, and the Dubs are much more endearing for it.
Klay has lived the ultimate dream of flying to China as the most willing spectator ever witnessed in sports. He airballed, tumbled, danced, ate (excessively), and cussed his way into every Chinese fan’s heart. He said yes to virtually everything they asked him to do—and herein lies the NBA’s crowning achievement: he is slowly opening 1.3 billion people to the sport. As much as we hate to admit it, the Chinese population is also known for its rabid appreciation for basketball—and that represents an industry-shifting preference for the NBA, a potential deepwell of cash fueled by childish antics, slacker charm, and a pristine jumper.
Klay’s levity and surreal wokeness miraculously manage to placate the Twitterverse by breaking away from the slow predictability of Warrior success with ridiculous gestures and willing acts of self-abuse.
Why should Filipinos love this? Because deep in all our hearts, all we want is the full local #ChinaKlay experience—some sleepy-looking sharpshooter dancing his way into Valkyrie, eating balut, and riding a jeepney into the sunset. We know that the integration of Klay into our lives would be the ultimate validation of the NBA recognizing our unrequited love for the sport.
Admit it, we’re all just jealous. We want our own NBA meme. We want our own #ManilaKlay. And we will never stop watching the Dubs until he appears.