Players, coaches of Asian descent will keep rising in NBA, says exec

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2020 02:49 PM

Players, coaches of Asian descent will keep rising in NBA, says exec 1
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra talks with guard Andre Iguodala (28) during a time out against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter of game three of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena. Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.

MANILA, Philippines -- As Erik Spoelstra continues to guide the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, a league executive expressed his confidence that coaches and players of Asian descent will keep on making their mark in the league.

Scott Levy, managing director of NBA Asia, believes that across the basketball landscape in the United States, players and coaches of Asian descent are on the rise.

This includes not just the NBA, which features Spoelstra and Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, but also the NBA G League, where homegrown center Kai Sotto will play alongside Fil-Am guard Jalen Green in Team Ignite. 

"Coach Erik is not a new phenomenon, for sure," Levy told reporters in a recent conference call. "I think we've been seeing continued progress, again, across the level."

"We have players in Kai and Jalen, of course, Jordan Clarkson as well. We have coaches, multiple coaches. There are players across the US college system, players of Asian descent that are playing at every level," he added.

Recently, Mike Magpayo became the first coach of Filipino and Asian descent to lead a US NCAA team when he was named head coach of University of California Riverside.

While the Philippines has yet to produce a homegrown NBA player, other Asian countries have already made that breakthrough.

"We've got two Japanese players in the NBA right now, we've had multiple Chinese players in the league, and I expect that there will be more and more players coming from Asia, reaching the highest levels for many years to come," said Levy.

Japan's Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards made it to the All-Rookie Second Team, while Yuta Watanabe was a two-way player for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The hope is that Sotto, who opted to forego college to go the G League route, will be the first homegrown Filipino player to make it to the PBA -- and that others will follow his footsteps.

What makes Levy all the more confident is that he has seen how the sport has developed in Asia, and how Asian countries continue to improve their basketball infrastructures. 

"The PBA has been ahead of the curve as far as the establishment of the league and the opportunity for people to play. But there are now leagues in every country, there are regional leagues for club competitions," he pointed out.

"I think it has been on the rise, and it will continue to do so," he stressed.