My 2023 FIBA World Cup experience

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Is the line: “Only a few are chosen” suitable for this?

Well, with whatever situation I may call this, I am just blessed that I was able to experience something I dreamt about as a basketball fanatic.

I am proud, and I will say this loudly, that I was one of the chosen accredited media members to take part in covering the prestigious International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Basketball World Cup last August 25, 2023, held here in Manila, Philippines.

After hearing that the country’s bid for hosting the FIBA World Cup got accepted, I giggled in excitement and started to think. Can I even go there? Is there any chance that I can work with the international organization and share exciting sports stories with the Ilonggos?

I held back. I thought it was too ambitious but with the help and support from my Editor-in-Chief Sir Francis Allan Angelo, I persevered and took the courage to apply for a slot as one of the event’s sports writers.

Fortunately, after the hard screening process, the Ilonggo sportswriter from Daily Guardian successfully passed, and I was in euphoria. I couldn’t believe what I just achieved.

Fast forward, after arriving in Manila, the busy streets and loud people awakened my sleepy head, on the way to the Araneta Coliseum to obtain my official badge as a partnering media for FIBA.

After holding the official ID in my hands, I realized that I officially am a part of this world-class basketball tournament.

It was a different feeling. When you’re too committed to your work, you tend to ignore the other stuff that has been happening around within the area.

During the opening game day at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, I was too pumped up for my content and began to brainstorm. Little did I know that famous personalities were already passing in front of me, and I was never surprised.

Perhaps I was nervous? In my normal state, I could’ve walked up to them and asked for a selfie, but due to the intensity of the games and the level of workmanship, I zoned out and glued my eyes to the hardwood.

As an athlete and as a sports fan, I was delighted and ecstatic to talk to the national team of the country, Gilas Pilipinas, as well as NBA stars and internationally renowned players who represented their nations in the World Cup.

I had the chance to have a chit-chat with June Mar Fajardo, the PBA’s only six-time MVP, dap up some players from the USA national team, and smirked at the face of Karl Anthony-Towns, the current superstar of the Minnesota Timberwolves playing for the Dominican Republic.

Both Araneta and Mall of Asia were the main venues of the World Cup here in Manila but I chose to focus on Araneta because that’s where Gilas played all of their first-round games including the classification matches.

Despite losing all games in the first round, a sense of fulfillment was felt after they defeated China during the classification, and it was surreal.

I may have finished all the games in the semifinals and the final phase, but the memories and the bond I formed with FIBA and some of the media members will remain forever.

Other media representatives from different countries also went to the Philippines, and understanding their culture in just two weeks was actually fun.

I formed a core group. I made friends. We bonded; we helped each other. And I think that is also one of the fondest memories I will cherish after that FIBA stint.

It wasn’t an easy stay due to some unfortunate incidents regarding equipment malfunction etc., but at the end of the day, you being a part of a successful event that is widely recognized as one of the best hoops tournaments in the world will forever go down as a once in a lifetime success in your whole existence.

Thank you, FIBA!

Thank you, Daily Guardian!