MANILA – (UPDATED) Filipino basketball fans are asking for an explanation -- and refunds -- following the fiasco that was "The Last Home Stand" at the SMART Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday.
Fans were expecting to see an action-packed game between the Gilas Pilipinas national team and some NBA stars, but instead were treated to what amounted to a training session by coach John Lucas.
Angry fans repeatedly booed, even as players like DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Tyson Chandler were dunking, and chanted "refund, refund" as the event wrapped up. They formed a crowd near one of the Araneta exits, where a table was set up and fans could write their names and contact details for refunds.
Later, it was announced that the second day of the basketball charity event was cancelled, and that a hotline was set up where fans can call regarding their refunds.
Rain or Shine guard Jeric Teng, who watched the event with his family, said the developments were "shocking to everyone."
"Pero wala tayong magagawa, kasi kapag ang NBA ang nag-sabi, it's hard," added Teng.
Apparently, the organizers of the event had failed to get approval from the NBA, and the league had threatened the players involved with fines and suspensions if they played in the unsanctioned event.
"At least we got to see them, and 'yun naman ang purpose talaga. It's for charity. We got to help the victims of the typhoon," Teng added.
His father, former PBA player Alvin Teng, was admittedly baffled. "Hindi ko alam, kasi akala ko may game talaga," Mr. Teng told ABS-CBNnews.com. "Medyo nagtaka lang ako. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyari."
The fans who paid good money to watch the NBA stars echoed Mr. Teng's sentiments: What happened to the game?
Fan: What home stand?
"Kung basketball event 'yan, laro 'yan," said a man who refused to be identified.
That man, along with three of his co-workers in the Semirara Mining Corporation, traveled 24 hours from Antique just to watch the game, and all four were visibly forlorn by the turn of events.
When told that the organizers never explicitly promised a basketball game, only a charity event, one man pointed out: "'Last Home Stand' nga 'di ba? Paano mo ide-defend ang home(court) mo kung drills lang?"
This was echoed by another fan outside the coliseum who said: "Sabi nila 'Last Home Stand.' So Gilas will be defending our home floor."
Other fans wondered why they were not immediately informed that there won't be a game, and why the organizers waited until the last possible moment to tell them.
"They hyped it up like it was a game," said another fan who bought Upper B tickets for P2,500. "It hurts more because they knew (there won't be a game) and they didn't tell us."
When informed that, according to some reports, the organizers themselves only found out at the last minute that they could not hold a competitive contest, the man pointed out: "They invite all these guys over here, and they didn't clarify that?"
Blake Griffin fan
Another fan said he and his friend bought tickets worth P8,000 and traveled for four hours from Quezon province to watch the game. They were immediately disappointed when Blake Griffin proved to be a no-show.
"Si Blake Griffin talaga ang pupuntahan namin," he said. "Noong sinabi niya wala siya, gusto na namin umuwi."
The fan from Quezon province told ABS-CBNnews.com that he had been expecting an event similar to the Ultimate All-Star Game in 2011, when a group of NBA superstars led by Kobe Bryant played two exhibition games against a selection of PBA players and the national team.
"Akala ko tulad noong last time, sila Kobe," he said.
But that game happened during the NBA lockout. This time, the players are under contract with their respective NBA teams, and according to a report by ABS-CBN's TJ Manotoc, they were threatened with hefty fines should they play in a game not sanctioned by the league.
PLDT executive vice president Ariel Fermin has assured ticket holders for both Tuesday and Wednesday's events that they will be refunded in full.
They are asked to send the following information: 1) Full name; 2) ticket number; 3) contact number; and 4) email address either by text message to 0919 614 0865 or email to [email protected]
Fermin himself announced before the event started that they will refund if fans were dissatisfied with event. Yet, he also reminded the people inside the Araneta Coliseum that the proceeds of the event will go to charity.
Another fan who managed to catch Fermin's message shook his head, saying they can help typhoon victims any time, but were expecting something more for the money that they spent.
Others could only look helplessly at the tarpaulin hanging near the Araneta entrance, promoting the event. True enough, the word "game" was never explicitly stated.
But, as one fan said, when it was announced that NBA stars will be coming to town for an event that also featured Gilas Pilipinas, "what else did you expect" but a basketball game?
All the fans that ABS-CBNnews.com talked to said they will "definitely" ask for a refund.
"Oh, they'll hear from us," said one fan. "We'll be on Twitter, on Facebook."