A few weeks ago Roundball Mining Company interviewed three Nuggets fans from Australia to get a better sense of how exactly one becomes a Nuggets fan in a country so far away from the United States. With such positive feedback and a horde of fans from other corners of the world eager to share their stories of Nuggets fanaticism, RMC has decided to return for a second helping of international fan interviews, this time with Nuggets supporters from an area of the world equally as distant as Australia is from the US: the Philippines.
For this piece I was able to contact three fans through social media who were born and raised in the Philippines: Nigel Pascual, Kathy Gietl and Max Tan. As was stated in the preceding Australian Nuggets loyalists piece, these fans were simply ones I was able to connect with on Twitter. I know there are many more foreign Nuggets fans out there, especially those from the Philippines, and I encourage all of those people to share their stories in the comments section below. Please tell us how you became a Nuggets fan, what you love about the Nuggets and one thing you would change about the Nuggets if you had the power.
Where do you currently live and where are you from?
Nigel: I currently live in Quezon City, which is near our national capital, Manila. But my hometown is General Santos City (If you have known a boxer by the name of Manny Pacquiao, you might have heard of this city).
Kathy: I currently reside in Denver, but was born and raised in Quezon City, Manila Philippines.
Max: I’m from Manila, Philippines. I’ve lived here my whole life.
How did you first get in to basketball?
Nigel: When I was in sixth grade two friends of mine were encouraging me to engage in a sport. Being the basketball fans they were, it was no surprise why they wanted me to learn basketball. After I learned how to dribble, I finally got addicted to the sport. Then, days later, that addiction turned into passion.
Kathy: I lived in Illinois after my dad moved us from the Philippines. During the 90’s we always watched the Bulls games. It was always amazing to watch Jordan and Pippen. Those were the days of great basketball, in my opinion.
Max: Basketball is the most popular sport here in the Philippines, and when I was four or five years old I’d play every weekend with my brothers. During the 80’s there used to be a US military base in the country and because of that we got to see some US channels via cable where the NBA Finals was shown. There’s also a local pro basketball league (Philippine Basketball Association, or PBA) here that I followed religiously, and since then I fell in love with the sport.
More importantly, how did you become a Nuggets fan?
Nigel: The Nuggets happen to be the first team I witnessed beat the historically formidable Los Angeles Lakers, so the Nuggets became my favorite. It was a game in 2007 which got me interested because Allen Iverson (who used to be my favorite player) was on the screen. The Nuggets won, and that’s when I discovered Carmelo Anthony. Denver’s also a cool city, so I find the color scheme of those jerseys as cool, and they fit.
Kathy: I moved to Colorado about six and a half years ago. I lived really close to the Pepsi Center and always went to the games. I’m more of a football fan, but I enjoy following basketball as well.
Max: I was always for the underdogs. I hated how everyone seemed to support the “glamor” teams and decided that I would not cheer for one. There were three teams in my initial list: the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings and the Nuggets. But the Warriors had Run TMC and the Kings were a team that just couldn’t get it together. Denver, I didn’t know much about. When the Nuggets drafted Dikembe Mutombo in ’91 I fell in love with the way he blocked shots and wagged his finger. Since then I knew Denver was the team I wanted to support. A lot of players and superstars have come and gone through Denver, but I always cheered for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.
Do you know any other Nuggets fans personally in the Philippines? If so, how did they become Nuggets fans?
Nigel: [Sigh] I only know one. He was a schoolmate of mine in high school. He became a Nuggets fan because of Chris Andersen. The way Birdman protected his nest in the 2008-2009 NBA season was enough for my former schoolmate to start his fandom for the Nuggets.
Kathy: Unfortunately I do not know any other Filipino Nuggets fans.
Max: Yes, my girlfriend, Karen. I’d say she became a Nuggets fan because of me! She’s a basketball fan as well but only followed the collegiate teams here. But when she saw how crazy I was for the Nuggets, and started watching them as well, she eventually fell in love with the team.
What’s the culture of basketball like in the Philippines? Do you see it becoming more popular as time goes on?
Nigel: The basketball culture of the Filipinos is so strong that each and every village has at least one basketball court. Our top basketball league, the Philippine Basketball Association, is the second oldest professional basketball league in history (behind the NBA). Our strong culture for the sport has been rewarded with international success, winning nine medals in the FIBA Asia Championships (including a silver in the recent tourney) and because of this, I don’t see basketball’s popularity declining in our country.
Kathy: I honestly do not see basketball as a huge sport in the Philippines, because frankly, we are a bunch if short people! I haven’t lived there in a while, but I think basketball is quite popular there.
Max: As mentioned earlier, it’s the most popular sport here in the Philippines. From the collegiate to pro level, you can see a lot of fans here and there watching games. Even on the streets, you’d see a lot people wearing basketball jerseys (either their own, fake or real NBA merchandises, or other leagues). I’d say we’re the most basketball crazy country in the world (if not, at least in Asia), and as evidence, being as small of a country as it is, the NBA has recognized how passionate the fans are here. In fact, there will be an NBA preseason game next month between the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets (why couldn’t they get the Nuggets to play here instead?). This year the Philippines was also host to the FIBA Asia Championships. We eventually placed second (behind Iran), but it was good enough to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Spain. The Filipinos are not as big as the Chinese or the Iranians as far as height is concerned, but we make up for it by playing with a lot of heart. We give it our all in each and every game we play!
Who’s your all-time favorite Nugget and all-time favorite NBA player? Why?
Nigel: My all-time favorite Nugget is Carmelo Anthony. Just like what has been said about the great Alex English, Melo’s game is just as silky smooth (maybe smoother). I feel sad that he had to leave Denver, but the memories of his game-winners (especially the one against the Thunder) will never be forgotten. My all-time favorite NBA player is Allen Iverson because of his unrivaled grit and will to score — all while being only six feet tall!
Kathy: Ah, I’m a huge fan of Kenneth Faried! He’s a great forward and such a badass rebounder! I’ve got to go with Michael Jordan as my all time favorite player. Enough said! He’s the best.
Max: I wasn’t a fan of the Nuggets back in the Alex English era, so I’d have to give credit to Dikembe Mutombo, as he was the main reason why I started supporting the Nuggets. I just love how he played defense. He was a great anchor for the Nuggets to continue their up-tempo style of play because after every blocked shot there was always a good chance to push the ball for a fastbreak play! But then again, as I’ve mentioned above, I cheer for the Nuggets as a team and not for the individuals that play, and because of that, who can forget the 1994 team that became the first eighth-seeded team to upset a one seed in the NBA playoffs! (Not surprising that George Karl was the coach and we all know his playoff struggles!) Phonz, Mutombo, Stith, Abdul Rauf, Rodgers, Pack…those guys brought it!
How do you watch Nuggets games?
Nigel: I watch Nuggets games either at home or via livestream. But usually when I don’t have TV access I just settle for the play-by-play at NBA.com.
Kathy: I love, love going to the games. There is something to be said about going to the Pepsi Center. The energy there is pretty amazing!
Max: I’m only able to follow the Nuggets via cable (we get one to two NBA games, but it depends on what the cable provider shows) and if we’re lucky it might be showing one ESPN. I’ve also relied on some “free” internet streaming but eventually got NBA League Pass two years back just so that I never have to miss another Nuggets game!
Have you ever been to Denver to see a Nuggets game live?
Nigel: No. In fact, I’ve never been to a place outside our country. But going to the Mile High City is one of my goals, and I’ll keep waiting until I get the chance.
Kathy: Of course! I got all the time!
Max: I’ve never been to Denver. It will always be a dream to be able to watch one at the Pepsi Center along with other Nugget fans. The closest I got was when I was in L.A. and caught the game between the Clippers and Nuggets. Unfortunately, the Nuggets lost. It was the time Eric Gordon and co. waxed hot and the Nuggets shot pretty bad. My only consolation was that I did get to see Melo put up 30-plus that time. Chauncey was solid too. It was also a month before Melo was eventually traded to the Knicks.
What’s your favorite thing about the Nuggets, and conversely, if you could change one thing about the Nuggets what would it be?
Nigel: I’ve always loved the Nuggets’ up-tempo offense. The offense fits with the altitude, and if the Nuggets have talented but selfless players, the offense becomes unstoppable. If I could change one thing about the Nuggets, I would go with not including Chauncey Billups in the Carmelo trade and not getting Raymond “I Want to Start” Felton. Trading away Billups was emotionally painful and I bet he would have accepted a pay cut and re-signed had he not been dealt.
Kathy: As mentioned above, I love going to the games! But the team has grown into their own, especially the past few years. I just wish they would actually make it to the Finals! Hopefully this year!
Max: The thing I like about the Nuggets is the”quiet force” they’ve become. They’re always a team that not everyone talks about, always flying under the radar, but at the same time they’re pretty decent even without a superstar. Every year the Nuggets have been a team that has consistently made the playoffs. Conversely, if I could change one thing (or a few), it would be the owner. I know some people won’t agree with me, but I don’t like how the Kroenke’s have handled our team. It’s true the Nuggets are in a good financial position with lots of flexibility, but then again, where has that gotten us? If we’re a team that’s just content with making it to the first round the Nuggets will never ever win the championship. Sometimes I’d like an owner like Cuban or Prokhorov. They might not win it everytime, but you can see that they try hard to bring a winning team to the city (and eventually Cuban’s craziness got him one ring in Dallas).