October 2, 2023

Why is the success of the basketball career of Kai Sotto so important to us, Filipinos? Why do we keep track of where he plays? Why are we so ardent in praying that he be drafted in the National Basketball Association?
In the Philippines, basketball is more than a national pastime. It is likened to a religion where every player is adored, idolized, and are looked upon as modern-day saints. Their lives are closely monitored. Their savvy moves inside the basketball court are keenly anticipated and every dunk, three-point shot, alley-oop and jump-shot they make are cheered by the masses.
Yet, despite the nation’s adulation of basketball, there is not a single fully-blooded Filipino playing in the NBA. Perforce to say, the NBA is the best organized and highly-leveled tournament in the universe. It sponsors the best players in the world and only the most talented are allowed to strut their wares. Hence, it had always been a dream among Filipinos to see one of their countrymen play in the best league.
The closest that the country came close to sponsoring a full-blooded natural born Pinoy to the NBA was when Johnny Abarrientos known as the “Flying A” was supposedly invited to try-out with the Charlotte Hornets in 1997. There were other instances when other players like Junemar Fajardo, Jayson Castro, and the hall of famer Robert Jaworski were accordingly invited by other NBA teams, as well. But these are mere rumors.
Since we have yet to see a Filipino play in the NBA, we have to content ourselves with the consolation that several players who are playing at the highest level of competition in the said league have Filipino blood in them.
Players like Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets are household names in the Philippines due to their ancestry. The very first Fil-Am to play in the NBA is Raymond Townsend.
Still, we are unsatisfied. We want to see a full-blooded Filipino getting a draft to play in the NBA.
Sotto has all the tools to make this a reality. He is tall, agile and athletic. Even scouts say that he has the talent to be an NBA player. This is why his career is as important to him as it is to the millions of Filipinos who have waited for years to see a Filipino play a real NBA game. This is why we are praying that this year, he will be enlisted as an active player in the roster of any legitimate and regular NBA team.
When Manny Pacquiao dominated the boxing scene, we had a sports hero with whom we can identify with. We triumphed with his victories and we cried in his defeats. He was a Filipino who brought honor and pride to our race. But he has long retired and nobody stepped up to the plate to take his place, so far.
If Sotto gets to finally play in the NBA, he will be the next big thing in Philippine sports. He carries in his tall and lean seven feet, three inches height the long awaited yearning of every basketball loving Filipino to watch and cheer one of their kind sharing the same court with the likes of Lebron James, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and other superstars of the NBA.