Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nate Robinson is 1/8th Filipino?

I love the game of basketball. I remember in my elementary days when a few friends and I would endure the dust-filled adjacent lot with two wooden hoops about 30 feet apart. Never the athletically gifted, I eventually developed dust-induced (thankfully, temporary) respiratory wheezes which further hindered my ability to play the game. Oh well, those were the days. How are we, Filipinos, so fascinated with the game? We've never been very successful since the early days during and post-American colonization. I understand that there's a Philippine squad (RP Smart Gilas Philipppine National team) being developed by a foreign coach (Toroman) trying to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Maybe they can acquire the services of former New York Knicks player (currently with the Boston Celtics), Nate Robinson, who is apparently 1/8th Filipino.

From this article in the Asian Journal, "New York Knicks’ Nate Robinson: Pinoy Slam Dunk Champ,"

Meet Nate Robinson, a 5’9" (with shoes) point guard for the New York Knicks that has an amazing 44" vertical leap.

He’s also one-eighth Filipino although you’d be hard pressed to find it in his features.

According to basketball writer Rafe Bartholomew as quoted by Philstar, Robinson’s Pinoy roots are from his mother’s side.

"Pinoy daw ang lolo niya," Bartholomew told Philstar.

Bartholomew, who wrote a profile about Robinson for the Seattle Weekly, interviewed Robinson’s mother Renee Busch and she confirmed that her great grand father was full Filipino...

When word spread earlier this year that an NBA player especially one with the caliber of Robinson is part Filipino have some Pinoy basketball fans giddy.

The reason: Robinson could play for the Philippine National Basketball Team.

Philstar’s Joaquin Henson wrote, "Technically, Robinson could be considered a Fil-Am or more like an Am-Fil. If he is issued a Filipino passport on that basis as a dual citizen, then the 5’ 9" human dynamo from Seattle qualifies to play for Gilas – not as a naturalized import but as a Filipino like Fil-Ams Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz.

Here's another article confirming the same, by Gerald Narciso, in the Dime Magazine, "The Thrilla In Manila: Nate Robinson Talks About His Filipino Roots,"

Being Filipino myself, naturally this was of interest to me. Before the Knicks played the Raptors on Friday night, I approached Nate in the locker room and asked him if it was true.

“That is true,” Robinson said as he sat at his locker. “I’m like 1/8th, on my momma’s side. But that’s like digging down the line though. It’s like great, great grandparent.”

Looking somewhat surprised, Nate asked me how I found out. I told him about the YouTube clip and how they debated whether that 1/8th was enough to put him on the national team. I also told Robinson about fans in the Philippines and how crazy they are about basketball. Robinson shook his head in amazement and smiled.

“I know that’s what I heard, somebody told me that on Twitter,” Robinson said about the news breaking about his Filipino genes. “I didn’t really take it too seriously. But we’ll see how it goes. Playing on the national team would be pretty cool though.”

I then asked him if his mom had maintained any customs or cooked Filipino food while Robinson was growing up.

“Naw she doesn’t, but she was raised in a Filipino family,” said Robinson. “But I’d really have to ask her about the history behind it and how it was.”

But just because Robinson’s immediate family doesn’t practice Filipino traditions, doesn’t mean the Seattle native is in the dark when it comes to the culture.

“I eat the lumpias (Filipino egg rolls) and everything,” says the 5-9 Robinson. “I have a lot of Filipino friends and we always ate it with sweet and sour sauce. My boy Sylvester, he lives with me. He’s Filipino and black. His mom, makes lumpias for us all the time and we go buy the ingredients when she comes over.”

While seeing Robinson suit up for the Philippine National Team is extremely unlikely, it does give the country another reason to love NBA basketball...

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