The door is open for players in the US National Basketball Association to play friendly matches with teams in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Newly appointed NBA Asia executive vice president and managing director Ramez Sheikh said this as they get ready to roll out the red carpet for the arrival of more than 50 NBA players in the region.
These players will play for their respective national squads, which will see action in the FIBA World Cup 2023, to be hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia next year.
“We’re definitely open. It’s just about timing and other factors. Now that the world has opened up again, we’re open,” said Sheikh, who talked about what can happen next year, in a round-table discussion with scribes at the NBA Philippines Office at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
“I imagine there’s a sizeable number who will play. To put it into perspective, there are close to 120 international players who play currently in the NBA. That’s about 25% of our playerbase. So I imagine there’s gonna be significant representation at the World Cup. Obviously not just team USA, but all the other international teams,” According to Sheikh, who came aboard after Scott Levy stepped down last June 2022, this will be an exciting event for the organization.
“What I’m really excited about is the Philippines will host the World Cup next year in August, alongside Japan and Indonesia. All three markets I look after, so it’s right that we have NBA players playing for their various countries. I’m sure we’re gonna be amazing hosts and it’s gonna be exciting,” said Sheikh.
He believes that these players will be able to showcase the game of basketball from the perspective of the countries that they represent.
“The World Cup is a chance to showcase in purest form, the game of basketball,” said Sheikh.
So far, NBA officials have noted that around 56 NBA players have participated during the qualifiers.
This includes Utah Jazz cager Jordan Clarkson, who has played for the Philippines.
While Team USA will be loaded with NBA stars, they are watching out for the likes of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, and Matisse Thybulle, cagers who could play for the Australia once they are done with their club commitments.
There’s also a chance that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kelly Olynyk could return for duty with Canada.
Sheik believes that these could generate a lot of following in social media in the months to come.
“We got a tremendous social media following in the Philippines. Just about 15 million Filipinos follow our local and global social handles which is tremendous for us. The NBA aggregate has just over 2 billion followers across all different social platforms which is the most for any sports leagues. The passion is there,” added Sheikh.