Feb 23, 2010, 05:57AM

Where Magaling Happens

Manilla Vanilla blogger breaks down hoops in the Phillipines, where every playground is Rucker Park and the best players umupo sa ere.  

Umupo sa ere – translation: To sit in the air. Most Filipino players lack the height to pull off SportsCenter-worthy dunks. They don't, however, lack hops. Slashers in the PBA, Manila's professional league (also the second-oldest in the world, after Boss Stern's Association), have substituted the circus layup for the dunk as the ultimate expression of basketball artistry. Shots that look like once-in-a-lifetime lucky chucks are actually taken by design. Well, not exactly design, because for players like Samboy “Skywalker” Lim, the subject of two lengthy tribute videos (first above), the plan is to get into the lane and into the air. After that, there is no plan, other than to “sit in the air,” spinning and twisting, pumping and clutching until a chance to shoot materializes. In the American game, mid-air improvisation more often seems like a last resort, a flash of brilliance made necessary by a challenge, like Vince Carter's last-second squirm to dunk over and around Anderson Varejao on Sunday; it's more of a strategy for Filipino scorers, who will look to break down their opponents in the air, rather than on the ground. Samboy may have the longest highlight reels with the most sublime musical accompaniments—Yanni and Kenny Loggins—but he is certainly not the only player to master these hoops flights of fancy; Vergel “The Aerial Voyager” Meneses and Bong “Mr. Excitement” Alvarez, helped Lim perfect the art in 1990s, and guards like Cyrus Baguio and Arwind Santos keep it alive today. 


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