In the closing hours of the FIBA World Cup 2023 on Sunday, September 10, Al S. Panlilio, President of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, reflected on the two-week-long global event that was coming to an end and felt a slight flutter in his heart.
“It’s a mix of extreme emotions,” said Panlilio, who led the country’s bid for the multi-nation hosting of the World Cup, along with SBP Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, in 2017. The Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia, as co-hosts, were awarded the rights to organize the latest edition of FIBA’s flagship event later that year.
“I’m extremely proud of all the LOC [Local Organizing Committee] staff and volunteers. And [I feel] extreme joy for the coming together of the FIBA community to make this World Cup a memorable one.
“But there’s also a feeling of extreme bittersweetness as it comes to an end, yet overshadowed by extreme hopefulness for the 2027 World Cup in Qatar,” he continued.
By Monday, the newly-crowned World Cup champion—either Germany or Serbia—would likely be on its way to NAIA and headed home, with the glittering, gold-plated Naismith Trophy as a cherished possession. The losing finalist and the teams that met for third place—USA and Canada—would also be making their way back, all of them left to ponder what might have been.
The process of clearing the tons of materials brought into the SM Mall of Asia Arena before August 25, the opening day, has already begun. In a few days, only a couple of signages may remain to remind future visitors that the world’s best basketball teams battled for supremacy there.
The Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, where the inaugural game between Gilas Pilipinas and the Dominican Republic set a new FIBA World Cup attendance record of 38,115, could be hosting another major event, while the Smart Araneta Coliseum would be gearing up for collegiate basketball and the new PBA season.
By Monday, a Gilas Pilipinas team, under the guidance of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone, would be commencing less than two weeks of practice for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. NBA star Jordan Clarkson would be back in camp with the Utah Jazz, and naturalized player Justin Brownlee would take his place in the national team.
The World Cup fever would have subsided, and the large workforce assembled by the LOC would have disbanded, with each functional head, staff member, and volunteer returning to their respective roles.
Meanwhile, Panlilio would continue to steer Philippine basketball toward continental glory. Having reflected on what has passed, he now looks forward to overseeing the formation of a Philippine team that will compete in the Asian Games against formidable opponents like South Korea, Japan, Iran, Lebanon, and China.
During a recent press conference announcing the appointment of Cone as Gilas Pilipinas coach, Panlilio stated, “While we may have fallen short of expectations in the FIBA World Cup, I believe Gilas Pilipinas battled and fought well until the end of its Group Phase campaign. The team never gave up; its never-say-die spirit remained unwavering to the last.”
And the flutter in the hearts of basketball-loving Filipinos continues.