When people think about basketball outside of the United States, many think of countries like Spain, Australia, or Argentina. However, there are some countries that are sneaky good at basketball, and that includes the Philippines. The country has produced a lot of great basketball players, and several Filipinos have even reached the NBA. Here are the five greatest Filipino basketball players of all time.
5. Robert Jaworski
Robert Jaworski was born in Baguio and helped put basketball on the map in the Philippines, starting his amateur career in 1967 with YCO Painters. After his short stint there, Jaworski would spend a couple of years with Meralco before playing the bulk of his career with Toyota and Ginebra San Miguel as an icon in the PBA.
Jaworski would even act as the coach of Ginebra San Miguel for almost all of his playing career with the franchise, while also representing the Philippines in international play. This includes two gold medals at the FIBA Asia Championship, as well as a silver and bronze medal. As head coach, he won another silver at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
4. Raymond Townsend
The first of the players on our list to make it to the NBA, Raymond Townsend was born in San Jose, California, and was the first Filipino-American player to reach the highest level of pro basketball. Townsend attended UCLA and played for the legendary coach John Wooden, and was selected at the very end of the 1978 NBA Draft.
Townsend played for the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers for a couple of years, while also playing in Canada, Brazil, and Italy. He would finish with an average of 4.8 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game in the NBA and won the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in 1984. Meanwhile, his brother Kurtis became a coach in the NCAA ranks.
3. Johnny Abarrientos
Johnny Abarrientos proved that you don’t have to be tall to be a great basketball player. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Abarrientos dominated as a player, winning a dozen PBA Championships, and was a one-time Most Valuable Player in 1996. He was selected to the PBA All-Star team eight times while also making five All-Defensive Teams.
It wasn’t just his play on the court that makes Abarrientos a legend in Philippines basketball, either. He would become an assistant coach following the end of his career (and even during the end of it), and joined the staff of the Far East University Tamaraws. At the same time, Abarrientos joined the coaching staff of the Magnolia Hotshots and has won six more PBA Championships.
2. Jalen Green
The youngest player on the list is also one of the best already. Jalen Green was born in Merced, California, and was named the top shooting guard in high school. Green would end up skipping a college career and entered the NBA Draft in 2021 out of the G League. The Houston Rockets used the second overall pick on Green in the draft, and he would be named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Though he represents the United States in international play, Green is the third player in NBA history to be of Filipino descent. Green quickly proved that he has a chance to be the best ever thanks to his rookie campaign which saw him average 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.
1. Jordan Clarkson
Jordan Clarkson’s mother came from the Philippines while his father served in the United States Air Force. Clarkson would exceed in basketball at Wagner High School in San Antonio, Texas, and played college basketball at both Tulsa and Missouri. Clarkson would end up being the 46th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, though he started his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Clarkson has played for multiple teams during his career and has won several accolades. This includes making the All-Rookie First Team and winning the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year. In that award-winning campaign, Clarkson put up 18.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.