THE Philippines remains a strong market for the National Basketball Association (NBA) with a significant number of viewers, NBA Asia Managing Director Ramez Sheikh said.

The NBA boasts 15 million social media followers in the Philippines combined across the league’s global and localized platforms, as well as a 169% increase in unique NBA app visitors across mobile phones and tablets, he told reporters on April 27.

The NBA’s television viewership in the Philippines has grown by 15% in comparison to the previous year’s statistics, Mr. Sheikh also noted. 

“Popularity has never been better,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark A. Tatum said.

“We approach the [Philippine] market with three sharp focuses: participation, bringing the experience to the fans, and accessibility,” he added.

While the NBA acknowledged that the majority of Filipino fans continue to watch its games on paid television, a 200% increase in traffic was observed in its mobile application year to date compared to last year. 

In terms of partnerships, online food delivery platform Foodpanda and mobile banking service GCash are among the recent ones in the Philippines.

Foodpanda started partnership with the NBA for the 3-on-3 competition presented by soft drink brand Mountain Dew in February.

Media company iHeartMedia, Inc. partnered with the NBA in the first quarter to produce “Hoops Paradise: The Philippines’ Love for the Game,” a six-episode podcast exploring the country’s unique and prideful love affair with basketball.

Filipino filmmaker Carlo Ledesma’s work “The Mountain Ballers” was among the 24 short documentary films commissioned by the NBA and marketed for global fans to zoom in on unique cultural perspectives on basketball. It featured indigenous people from Tadian, Mountain Province, and their passion for the sport.

“The storytelling is important. People become fans for different reasons… There are so many great stories to be told about the NBA family, not just the players.” Mr. Tatum noted.

Operated by apparel partner Titan at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the largest NBA store in the Philippines, the country’s second, is set to open on May 4. In terms of merchandise, the NBA Philippines will focus this store before expanding to other locations outside the capital region.

The NBA Philippines currently ships products to more than 200 main areas in the Philippines with 43 partners and sponsors.

With the continuously growing amount of support of Filipinos for the sport, there are only two Filipino-American players in the NBA.

There is a need to celebrate the Filipino players who do all of you proud, Mr. Sheikh said. “The Philippines is such a great ambassador for the game of basketball.”

Messrs. Tatum and Sheikh outlined a pathway established by the NBA for Filipino and Asian players to enter the league, starting with the Jr. NBA youth basketball program and then the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) development and community outreach program in collaboration with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).

“There are more than 30 kids coming from the Philippines and participating [in the BWB],” Mr. Sheikh said.

What is next in the pipeline is undergoing intensive training, then getting the best development and thinking through one of the NBA’s academy systems.

“The talent is here. The passion for the game is here. Infrastructure is here. It’s a matter of identifying that talent and putting them in the competitive setting, playing against the best competition in the world,” Mr. Tatum said.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before a Filipino homegrown player plays in our league.”—Miguel Hanz L. Antivola