The scheduled exhibition games between Gilas Pilipinas and some NBA stars on Tuesday and Wednesday in Manila were called off, leaving thousands of basketball fans asking for a refund.
NBA stars Blake Griffin and Paul George, who are the top names headlining the event, did not also make it to Manila.
The much-anticipated games are supposedly part of PLDT Home’s “Last Home Stand” charity event.
Fans who paid expensive tickets and trooped to the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday were dismayed to see practice drills between the two teams instead of a basketball game.
“We will not have a game tonight, instead we will give you something you haven’t seen before. We’ll give you an inside glimpse on for Gilas prepares for the FIBA World Cup,” Gilas coach Chot Reyes explained to the crowd during Tuesday’s event.
But some angry fans repeatedly booed even as NBA players like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan were showing off dunks.
Organizers of the event explained that the NBA stars were threatened by the NBA by penalties and suspensions if they participated in any form of competitive event, including a five-on-five scrimmage.
“Today, the NBA called most of the players and threatened them with penalties and suspensions,” said Maria Espaldon of East West, the events group that helped bring the NBA stars to the PLDT Home event.
Later, the NBA released its official statement over the fiasco, saying the promoter did not follow the requirements for offseason basketball games.
“The promoter of this proposed event, East-West Private LLC, was informed of this process several months ago but did not take the required steps. Filipinos are among the most passionate basketball fans in the world and we are committed to bringing them more access to our game and supporting the ongoing Typhoon Haiyan rehabilitation efforts,” the league said in a statement posted in its website.
NBA players that made it to the event include Harden, DeRozan, 2014 MVP Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Brandon Jennings, Tyson Chandler, Matt Barnes, Terence Ross, Ed Davis, and Nick Johnson.
Following the fiasco, PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan expressed his “sincerest apologies” over the games’ cancellation. “We apologize to Filipino fans for disappointing them tonight,” he said.
Pangilinan, who is also president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, also assured that fans would be given a refund.
PLDT executive vice president Ariel Fermin said that while the company is ready for a refund, he reminded fans that the proceeds would go to charity. “After all, this is really for a good cause,” he said in a report.
But this did not stop angry fans from venting out their dismay, with some even hailing from the provinces.
Organizers said fans can contact 836-5818, 836-5890, 836-5819 to ask for a refund.
A Rappler report details the process for the “Last Home Stand” refund.