Manila Vanilla

What it's like to be a U.S. Fulbright scholar, basketball player, journalist, and the whitest man in Metro Manila.

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Location: Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

New Yorker by birth, shipped across the globe to the world of malls, shanty-towns, patronage, corruption, basketball and a curious burnt-toast smell that wafts around at dusk

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Basketball Ninjas

What makes ninjas so deadly? They're silent, and at night, dressed in their cute black jumpsuits, they're nearly invisible. You don't know what's coming until ninja stars are making mincemeat of you.

What's this have to do with basketball, or the Philippines? Well, after a couple years of playing in public playgrounds and dirt courts here, I must have been stripped from behind almost a hundred times. Part of that has to do with the blasé attitude towards protecting the ball in these games. Turnovers and points tend to accumulate in unison, and so, after grabbing a rebound, instead of bringing the ball to my chin, stabbing the air with my elbows and pivoting until I find a safe outlet pass, I might do something like start dribbling through a crowd of three or four defenders, and while I feel pretty confident against these guys, sooner or later you get stripped.

But there's another reason. Basketball ninjas. One of the biggest clichés in Philippine basketball is the footwear, or lack thereof, on children, teenagers and grown men who play on street corner hoops, barangay playgrounds and provincial dirt courts. They sprint, leap, jab-step and jump-stop in flip-flops and bare feet. Flip-flops, with their onomatopoeic name, have a recognizable pitter-patter. Bare feet, on the other hand, are practically silent. Hence the basketball ninja.

Don't you know bad boys move in silence?


In basketball, as in life, people use perceptual cues to construct an image of the world around them, including the parts that they can't see. On defense, you see the ball at all times, but you plant a forearm on your man so you know where he is. You stick your hands out and feel for cutters along the baseline, you turn around and box out a man with your arms and back; you watch for the ball to come off the rim while you feel your man. You also hear your man. You hear his steps coming from behind when he crashes the board or cuts behind you in a zone. When you're handling the ball, you hear players coming from behind to snatch your dribble.

Well, an opponent without shoes gives you no auditory clues. You listen for him, hear nothing, and assume you're safe to put the ball on the floor and begin your move. And that's when the basketball ninjas strike. You can't hear them coming, but they're there, and if you take your eyes off them, they'll sneak right behind you and wait for a chance to pick your pocket. If you're a first-world chump like me and 95 percent of the basketball you've played has been against players wearing nice, squeaky sneakers, you're going to lose the ball sometimes.

Now, I don't think I need to explain how wearing shoes is ultimately a huge advantage for a basketball player, but instead of the standard, mildly paternalistic musing about Filipinos' quaint passion for basketball, which is so great that they play without socks and sneakers, why don't we also consider one of the few advantages a barefoot basketball player has over his Nike-clad opponents.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Earl the Goat said...

another possible advantage of playing barefoot or in "tsinelas" - i saw a guest coach on tv once talk about how playing or running barefoot helps use and train more muscles within the feet and legs than what is usually used when wearing shoes.

i've seen barefooted troopers around 5'7" - 5'8" at our local court just leap upwards to grab the ring. the powers of basketball ninjas are far deeper than we can ever fantom

9:33 PM  
Blogger PAK MUS said...

saya mengucapkan banyak terimakasih kepada KI HADAK yang telah menolong saya dalam kesulitan,ini tidak pernah terfikirkan dari benak saya kalau nomor yang saya pasang bisa tembus dan ALHAMDULILLAH kini saya sekeluarga sudah bisa melunasi semua hutang2 kami,sebenarnya saya bukan penggemar togel tapi apa boleh buat kondisi yang tidak memunkinkan dan akhirnya saya minta tolong sama KI HADAK dan dengan senang hati beliau mau membantu saya..,ALHAMDULIL LAH nomor yang dikasi KI semuanya bener2 terbukti tembus dan baru kali ini saya menemukan dukun yang jujur,jangan anda takut untuk menhubungiya jika anda ingin mendapatkan nomor yang betul2 tembus seperti saya,silahkan hubungi KI HADAK DI 085=259=457=111 ingat kesempat tidak akan datang untuk yang kedua kalinya dan perlu anda ketahui kalau banyak dukun yang tercantum dalam internet,itu jangan dipercaya kalau bukan nama KI HADAK
BUKA INI DANA GHAIB TOGEL










saya mengucapkan banyak terimakasih kepada KI HADAK yang telah menolong saya dalam kesulitan,ini tidak pernah terfikirkan dari benak saya kalau nomor yang saya pasang bisa tembus dan ALHAMDULILLAH kini saya sekeluarga sudah bisa melunasi semua hutang2 kami,sebenarnya saya bukan penggemar togel tapi apa boleh buat kondisi yang tidak memunkinkan dan akhirnya saya minta tolong sama KI HADAK dan dengan senang hati beliau mau membantu saya..,ALHAMDULIL LAH nomor yang dikasi KI semuanya bener2 terbukti tembus dan baru kali ini saya menemukan dukun yang jujur,jangan anda takut untuk menhubungiya jika anda ingin mendapatkan nomor yang betul2 tembus seperti saya,silahkan hubungi KI HADAK DI 085=259=457=111 ingat kesempat tidak akan datang untuk yang kedua kalinya dan perlu anda ketahui kalau banyak dukun yang tercantum dalam internet,itu jangan dipercaya kalau bukan nama KI HADAK
BUKA INI DANA GHAIB TOGEL

11:04 PM  

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