Photo credits: FIBA 

MANILA — Once again, the deep-rooted connection between basketball and life was vividly displayed by Filipinos.

An impressive crowd of 38,115 basketball enthusiasts congregated at the Philippine Arena on Friday, all eagerly anticipating the showdown between Gilas Pilipinas and the Dominican Republic, marking the opening game of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

This remarkable attendance shattered the previous record of 32,616 attendees, which was set during the 1994 finals match between the United States and Russia at Toronto’s Skydome (now referred to as Rogers Centre) in Canada.

Enthusiasts from various corners of the Philippines and even beyond gathered at the expansive indoor arena with a seating capacity of 55,000, situated in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Their purpose was to witness the tournament’s commencement, marked by the opening match between Angola and Italy.

However, the main attraction was undeniably the game between Gilas Pilipinas and the Dominican Republic. The latter dealt the Nationals a hard-fought 87-81 decision in this captivating match that drew the largest crowd.

Beyond the exhilarating basketball action, the record-breaking audience was treated to live performances by iconic Original Pilipino Music (OPM) bands Ben&Ben and The Dawn, along with a captivating showcase by Popstar Royalty Sarah Geronimo.

Spanning until September 10, the tournament in the Philippines will continue with more matches hosted at the Araneta Coliseum and the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

On Sunday, Gilas PIlipinas faces Angola at the Araaneta Coliseum. (AI/MNM)