“They love basketball” | Utah Celebrates Filipino Heritage Night

Typically, a game in mid-January, the hottest days of the NBA season, doesn’t arouse much curiosity or emotion. It’s usually when teams are preparing for the upcoming trade deadline or trying to get through the middle of the season to prepare for the playoff push.

That won’t be the case on Jan. 19 when Utah hosts Houston at Vivint Arena. Instead of the typical January blues, some kind of league history will unfold when Utah’s Jordan Clarkson and Houston’s Jalen Green take to the court together.

For the second time in NBA history — the first being back on Oct. 28 when these two teams played — two players of Filipino descent will play together in an NBA game.

Speaking after the game on October 28, Clarkson reiterated how much the game of basketball means to Filipinos, and how he and Green sharing the court could inspire others more.

“They love basketball,” Clarkson said after Utah’s 122-91 win over Houston on Oct. 28. I feel like it’s just an amazing experience, something that can’t be done again because (it was) the first. Hopefully we’ll see more.

The Jazz will now do their part and honor Clarkson and Green by hosting the Filipino Heritage Night on January 19. It will be a massive celebration of Filipino heritage, with multiple in-game activities and commemorative t-shirts to honor the occasion.

San Diego resident Erwin Hines is the designer of the commemorative t-shirts sold at the team store. The white shirt is sold with the ticket packages offered for the match, while the black shirt is only available at team stores.

When designing the memorial t-shirt, Hines knew he wanted something that not only promoted his legacy, but something that was unifying.

Echoing what Clarkson said about basketball-loving Filipinos, Hines opted to use the Tagalog word “Pamayanan,” which translates to “community.” He also used symbols like the sun and the basketball to describe unification.

“The star/sun represents unity and togetherness,” Hines said. “Having this design behind the basketball with people holding it up in the sky is like a trophy. Basketball unites us and that’s what I wanted to show.

For Hines, his journey of discovering his Filipino heritage began as a young boy growing up in the Midwest.

His parents made sure he never lost sight of who he was or where he came from, instilling in him the cultural effects of being black in America.

But he always felt that a part of him was missing.

His natural curiosity and desire to learn more about his culture led him to his grandmother, a first-generation Filipina. From short stories to swear words, Hines began to discover more about his Filipino heritage as he got older and, in turn, began to embrace that side of him.

“Growing up in the Midwest, there weren’t a lot of Filipinos, so I didn’t really understand a part of me,” Hines said. “My grandma was Filipino and started teaching me a little bit more. But also at that age (in middle school), I didn’t really care about heritage or history. … I would ask how to say swear words.

Although it will still be years before Hines truly embraces and understands the Filipino side, this part of him is integral to his identity as a 35-year-old living in San Diego.

“The projects I work on allow me to connect with my grandmother and her story,” Hines said. “It’s a space to remind myself that I am a continuation of this story, a living and evolving legacy. Now that legacy includes the Utah Jazz. … It is a blessing to collaborate with them.

Hines isn’t the only member of the Filipino community represented on Jan. 19.

Joseph Buenaflor will sing the national anthems while Grace Shoptaugh and Gracie Lou Cultural Dance Group will perform Filipino cultural dances. Mary Navalta-Chavan (President, Utah Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce), Grace Lack (Head of Public Relations, National Federation of Filipino American Associations) and Ms. Moreno (Head, Utah Filipino American Association) will also be present.

Jazz players purchased tickets to the game and donated them to local organizations including the Utah Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations and the Pilipino American Association of Utah.

To help celebrate the night, the Jazz is offering Upper Bowl tickets, which include a limited-edition Filipino Night t-shirt (sizes subject to availability), for just $25. For those who want to buy the package but for seats in the lower bowl, prices start at $120. To buy tickets, click HERE.

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