‘Hoops Paradise’: Getting love from the Philippines

Published March 16, 2023, 2:30 PMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

The fourth episode of ‘Hoops Paradise’ revolves around NBA players and their memorable visits to the Philippines.

Photo from Nikko Ramos/Twitter

It’s pretty clear by now that Hoops Paradise isn’t a blow-by-blow historical account of basketball in the Philippines. Nikko Ramos and Cassidy Hubbarth discuss the history in the podcast, but mostly, it’s really about the Filipino experience of basketball from different points of view.

Part of that experience is the country, welcoming NBA superstars to the Philippines. Which is what episode 4 is all about.

Cassidy starts out hot, launching the episode with the booming question: “What’s the absolute best visit to the Philippines by an NBA player that you can think of?”

Looking at that question now, it seems impossible to answer just one moment. The Philippines has hosted super duper stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry multiple times. Even current All-Stars like Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and James Harden have made their way here. Even legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, and Allen Iverson have visited. 

Nikko and Cassidy not only talk about the types of visits NBA players have to the Philippines, like exhibition games, becoming an import in the PBA, or the various offseason events held here in the country, but they also share how amazed NBA players are of the love FIlipino fans show them.

“The one thing that will never ever ever get old,” Nikko said “is seeing how genuinely touched they are by the country’s passion for the sport.”

When the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets played an exhibition game in Manila back in 2013, Chandler Parsons’ dad – yes, not just Parsons, even his dad – was getting autograph requests. DRose and Robin Lopez have joined the chorus, sharing their love for the Philippines and Filipino fans as well.


If there’s one player who loved the Philippines the most, it’s probably Kobe.

Mamba visited the country six times and every time he was here, he was treated like a rockstar. But what made Kobe such a beloved figure was his “pakikisama” with the Filipino fans. As Nikko shared, Kobe always had a huge smile. He was always ready to share his experiences as a basketball player. Kobe would also gamely do a round of Tinikling, post up hosts of his events, or put on a local college team’s jersey.

During Kobe’s numerous visits to the country, he’s connected with several players like local female hooper Kat Tan, known as the One-Armed Mamba, who has been inspired by Kobe to keep pushing through adversity. Or even a local legend like Jimmy Alapag, who only rocks Kobe’s kicks. That’s why Kobe’s image hangs in the rafters of the fabled Araneta Coliseum. Because he returned the love that the Filipinos gave him.

Circling back to Cassidy’s question to Nikko to start the episode. Of course the obvious answer would be one of Kobe’s visits. What’s interesting though was how Nikko shared how he was able to have the full Kobe experience at every level, literally. He watched Kobe from the farthest point of the arena, tried to get close to him while posing as a member of the media, and finally, being lucky enough to host one of his events.

At every level, from the one farthest back to the closest one in the room, Filipinos will always show their love for the NBA players that choose to visit the country.

“Hoops Paradise: The Philippines Love of The Game” is a 6-episode podcast series that explore the Philippines’ love for basketball and how the game became a source of pride for the country.