Leading the way: Jimmy Alapag takes on a new mission

Published June 15, 2022, 8:00 AMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

Jimmy Alapag aims to be an inspiration for young coaches and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

During a roundtable discussion hosted by the Sacramento Kings featuring members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Jimmy Alapag recounted a story of his father shining shoes as a child. When Crispin Alapag was seven or eight years old, he would hang out at airports and go around to shine people’s shoes. That gig would earn him money to help his family.

Growing up in the US, Jimmy never fully understood the situation that his father had to face in the Philippines. That was until he returned to the Philippines to try out his luck playing professional basketball.

“I land in Manila and I'm going to the airport, and as I'm walking out, I see a kid in the airport, shining shoes.”

That kid Jimmy saw reminded him of his dad. But it also set the tone for the career he would have in the country. 

“I mean, I'd been back in the country five minutes and, and right away, it just made me feel like this part of or this chapter of my life here in Manila is gonna be much bigger than just playing basketball,” he said.

Throughout his 13-year playing career, and even his five-year coaching career in the Philippines, Jimmy made sure everything he did transcended the basketball court. He was the consummate professional, a true leader, and a national icon. He led with his words but always backed it up with action.

When he flew back home 20 years ago, he was chasing a dream – to become a professional basketball player. Now he’s chasing a new dream. Jimmy wants to become a Filipino-American NBA coach. The first stop of that journey is in the NBA G League with the Stockton Kings where he’s an assistant coach. 

Jimmy isn’t simply chasing his own dream. He’s also taking this opportunity to inspire others that might be on the same journey as his.

“Just thankful to be here and, and looking forward to continuing the growth and, and continuing to try to lay down that pathway for others, former players or coaches who want to try to do what I'm doing,” he said.

Jimmy is in a unique position in the US. Not only is he trying to make it to the NBA as a coach, but he’s also once again a member of the AAPI community. That’s something he didn’t have to think much about during his time in the Philippines. Being back in the US though, he’s recalling his experiences as a part of that community.


Growing up as a short Asian kid trying to make it in the world of basketball, he knows how hard it can be for people like him. But he was able to break down the barriers because he leaned on a solid support system that kept him pushing through.

“I really leaned on my support system from my family. I was very fortunate growing up to have a lot of coaches who did believe in me and said ‘Okay well, you're pretty small, you don't fit the usual, physical look of a basketball player but you’ll just have to work harder than everybody else,’” he shared.

That’s Jimmy’s advice to the other members of the community trying to make it in the US just like he did, and just like he’s doing again.

“I would just encourage young athletes and the AAPI community to surround yourself with people who genuinely care and and and love you and wanna support you in whatever sport, whatever career that you go into.”

Now that he’s a member of the community once again, he’s paying it forward. Jimmy is trying to be someone else’s support system in the community, just like his family and coaches were for him.

Beyond just being a positive influence in the community, Jimmy is also putting in the same hard work as he did as a 4’9” kid back in high school. He wants to achieve the same level of greatness that he did as a player in the Philippines to open up doors for other members of the AAPI community.

“I think by showing that, and showing your character, and showing how you do things, I think it just encourages those companies in those organizations to say ‘Well, I'm not afraid to hire somebody else from Vietnam, or the Philippines or India because look at the work that they do,’” he explained.

Just like his mindset when he was a player, his return to the US to coach is also bigger than basketball.

“I think that's important because all of us are in a very blessed position in our respective field to continue to raise the bar for everybody that follows, to show that it can be done. And we've kind of set the bar here and try to keep raising it up for everyone.”