National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Stern recently said in an interview that he wants to see “More Chinese players” in the league as it plans expansion into Asia and Europe.
This should be a surprise since China has the biggest potential market for the NBA. But Stern’s statement also gives reference to the few Chinese players who played in the NBA, and two automatically come into mind: Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin.
Well, Ming was expected to make it big in the NBA, because he was literally big at 7’4.” While he never won an NBA title, he will always be remembered as the first Asian to make a big splash in the NBA.
As for Lin, he will forever be remembered for starting “Linsanity” and putting out his 101-percent despite the criticisms hurled against him. He is a midget compared to Ming, but his impact on the game cannot be discounted.
Although I would understand Stern’s preference for Chinese players, I am frustrated that not one Filipino has made a big splash in the NBA similar to Ming and Lin. Perhaps Filipino cagers should revolutionize the way they play the game . . . and here is my anti-thesis: the cagers Filipino basketeers should emulate if they want to make it to the NBA should not be Lebron James, Kobe Bryant or even Ming; it’s Lin and Ramon Fernandez.
To this day, Fernandez is still acknowledged as the best player the PBA has produced. The late Joe Cantada once referred to Ramon as capable of playing “center, forward and backward,” and Fer–nandez excelled facing the basket or with his back facing the basket, and end-to-end.
Fernandez, who stood 6’5” and weighed between 165 pounds to 170 pounds, played in an era where the weaker teams were allowed to have bigger imports. His lack of heft he made up with ring intelligence, stealth and skill, and he was fondly called a “finesse center.” A master at triple doubles, Fernandez, if he added some heft, would have made it to the NBA in his prime.
Since Fernandez could easily make medium- to long-range jumpers, he could distance himself from the ring which prevents the opposing center from defending the basket. And since he was a good passer, he fed scorers from the post or from the perimeter. Since he was also more versatile than a typical center, he could drive to the basket to make a lay up or his patented “elegant shot.” Or if the center guarding him was caught flat-footed, he could easily take a medium-range jumper.
If he was left to take the other center one-on-one, he could either take a turn around medium-range jumper or drive to the left for a lay-up.
I even recall Fernandez easily making three-point and hook shots!
Sad to say I have yet to see a reincarnate of Fernandez in today’s PBA. But just imagine of the reincarnate of Fernandez in the PBA stood between 6’6” and seven feet.
As for Lin, I am very sure that 90 percent of PBA players could beat him in physical tests like the bench press.
But I am very sure Lin will run rings around the best PBA players today.
In my column on Lin published on October 13, 2013 (‘Linsanity’), I said that Lin’s style is based more on stealth, intelligence and speed. Much of the time, he doesn’t use pure explosiveness (which he lacks anyway) to slice to the basket. Rather, he would seek an open path to take (even if it would be not a straight line), and fling the ball to the basket. And instead of taking in-your-face jumpshots, Lin would try to find a better spot, or pass the ball to an open man.
I have yet to see that kind of playing style from a local cager. But imagine if all PBA players up to 6’6” played like Lin.
It is my anti-thesis that Filipino cagers have yet to develop a playing style that will enable them to make it big in the NBA. And while Filipino cage pros are becoming stronger and faster, Europe, the United States, Africa and China can always field basketeers who are bigger, stronger and faster. So forget about emulating James, Kobe, Dwight Howard, and other NBA players who rely more on size and athleticism.
And we will likely never see a Filipino (not Fil-Am) version of James or Bryant in the NBA. Most likely, a Filipino version of Lin and a “Ramon Fernandez incarnate” can end up playing in the NBA. And imagine if the reincarnation of Fernandez stood seven feet!
In the meantime, let’s witness more Chinese players entering the NBA.