Can online fantasy sports rekindle interest in basketball? This Filipino startup founder thinks so

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Digital media may have contributed to the decline in live audiences at basketball games in the Philippines, but this startup hopes its app can bring back audiences to the sport

My very first memory of a basketball game was when I was three years old. I sat quietly on the couch next to my papa who seemed hypnotised by the match while watching it on TV. It was 1986, in the Philippines and he was watching the local league — The PBA (Philippine Basketball Association).

I remember making a promise to myself at that moment, that if my father loved watching this game so much, then I will, too. Simple as that, I turned into a basketball fan at three years old.

Looking back at my passion for basketball and supporting the PBA, I have a few fan highlights that will forever be in my heart and mind. At the top of my list is my very first live PBA game.

I was 14 years old. My family have saved up a bit of money to treat all the children to watch a live game of PBA at the Araneta Coliseum. It was one of the best days I had when I was a teenager. I remember looking forward to the game day, dressing up in my best gear, watching the game, buying souvenirs, and even hanging around at end of the night at the carpark of the Coliseum just so that we could get a last glimpse of our favourite players.

That day was such a treat.

It was my ultimate Fanhood experience and still a treasured one till this day. It sounds so simple, but I think what made all the difference was the behind the scenes which lead me to that experience:

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There was the saving of the money. My family had to save enough money to make sure all the kids could come and watch the game. All us kids taught that we won the lotto when we got told we could watch a live PBA contest.

There were the preparation and logistics. We rented a minivan that will take us to the game. On the way to the game, our minivan broke down. Full of kids close to tears that they might not get to watch the game. We made it there to watch the game somehow.

We dressed up in our best gear and even dyed parts of my hair white to represent my favourite team back then.

The days leading on to the game where I join in friendly banter with my school mates on why my team is better than theirs.

The fact that I’m going with my family. I could share all the excitement and re-live it all the time through our stories. We were creating memories. And that was gold!

A country of dedicated basketball fans

I am willing to bet that you will not find any other country in the world which has more dedicated basketball fans than the Philippines.

Basketball is life for Filipinos. I’m not saying that to sound like a baller bad-ass, or because it might be a cool tagline on a t-shirt, I’m saying that because it is a fact.

My story is just one of millions of stories on why the Filipinos love basketball.

Little kids (boys) grow up learning how to shoot a toy basketball as a toddler. When they could walk, a makeshift hoop will be made for them at the back of their bedroom doors. When they are big enough to step outside the house and play with neighbourhood kids, they will play half court games on street corners wearing their singlets and thongs — because the Filipinos kids think they can fly even without fancy Jordans.

When they are in their teens they will join a local neighbourhood league, they will play, and their parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and neighbours will watch and support them.

I dare you to play or watch an impromptu half-court street game in any town in the Philippines and challenge a call. Because I bet that the people loitering about, who are casually watching you and your little game will also have an opinion about the call. Everyone knows the basketball rules. Even the grandmas and grandpas!

Basketball really is life.

Fast forward to now, 2017

Are Filipinos still in love with Basketball?

There is no apparent shortage of makeshift basketball courts in local barangays (towns), however the PBA — the local league has been seeing a decrease in fan engagement in comparison to the earlier non-digital years. The fanhood traction is slipping away. Not many fans are turning up to live PBA games anymore, not many fans are living and breathing the games anymore, and not many are interested in the PBA at all anymore.

I wonder if this is because of rising digital access in the Philippines. Filipinos are now more connected than before. Let’s not forget that they are the most active country accessing social media apps.

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Are Filipinos no longer interested in basketball fanhood because they have other hobbies now such as Facebook, Instagram, and selfie-taking? Could the millennial Filipinos bring the end of the PBA and basketball altogether? Or is it time for the PBA to embrace the 21st century?

The fact is that basketball fanhood all over the world is changing, the needs of the basketball fans are changing — and ultimately, the PBA has to adapt and evolve to keep up. Otherwise, it will truly end.

I created PilipinasHoops with my co-founder and husband Jack to create a community of basketballers. Re-ignite that crazy love that Filipinos have for the game of basketball but also take the fans to a step into the digital future. That is, through fantasy gaming.

Now, as fans, you can pick and create an ultimate Superteam. Imagine if you have the power to create an ultimate PBA team, who would you add in there?

Imagine if you could challenge other basketball fans in your barangay about their knowledge of the PBA players. What about if you want to challenge your friends one on one.

It can be done now at the tip of your fingertips.

Fanhood to the next level

Fanhood for the Filipinos and PBA to next level. Combining all the goodness, it can add to the game. Such as rewarding the ultimate fan who has the best knowledge in PBA player stats, deriving trends which player is hot (trending right now), and once and for all — let the numbers speak for itself about who really is the best player in the PBA.

The opportunities are endless, but the first step is to bridge the gap with disengaged fans. Yes, you fellow Pinoy!

We are uniting all of you! And I am personally inviting you to join and live new Fanhood experiences with PilipinasHoops.com.

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Hey! Thanks for reading! I’m Juliet Lara, I write about life, learning, tech, startups, and communication.If you enjoyed reading this entry then please share the love by sharing the article. I will very much appreciate it! You can get in touch with me via twitter @julietlspeaks.

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