What was billed as an exhibition series between the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team and a group of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars has turned into a fiasco that enraged fans, triggered a call for a congressional inquiry and embarrassed one of the country’s telecommunications giants.
“The Last Home Stand,” a two-day event at the Smart Araneta Coliseum sponsored by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), was widely promoted as tune-up games for Gilas, which is preparing for the FIBA World Cup in Spain this August.
Basketball fans, some of whom paid as much as P23,300 for a courtside seat, trooped to Araneta on Tuesday, eager to watch the national team go up against the NBA standouts, which included the Houston Rockets’ James Harden, the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors.
But the players took to the court not to play a game but to perform practice drills. Boos and shouts demanding a refund echoed across the stadium.
In a statement released on Wednesday, PLDT explained that the visiting players required permission from the NBA management before they could play offseason or exhibition games.
PLDT said it was told of the requirement just hours before the event.
“We wish to apologize to our Filipino basketball fans for the sudden and disappointing turn of events today,” PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said
in a statement. “We ourselves are extremely disappointed
by this unexpected development.”
PLDT assured that all tickets will be refunded.
The organizers also announced they were canceling the second day of the event, scheduled for Wednesday.
The NBA explained that it informed the event’s promoter, East-West Private LLC, of the requirements several months ago but it “did not take the required steps.”
East-West Private LLC insisted it never said there would be a game between the NBA squad and Gilas Pilipinas.
Part of the proceeds from the event was supposed to have benefited the victims of last year’s Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Angry and sarcastic comments flooded the social media.
“Gilas The Last Home Stand Epic Fail. I mean, super epic fail. Palpak sobra,” tweeted one fan. ‘This aint no #GilasLastHomeStand but more like a
#GilasLastHomePractice,” noted another. From one particularly disappointed fan: “BORING AS F___! I WANT A REFUND!”
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo was so disgusted over the cancelation of the exhibition games that he has called for a congressional investigation.
On Wednesday, Castelo filed House Resolution 1293 that seeks remedial legislation to prevent recurrence of the incident.