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Henry Liao


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Only one Filipino has so far been enshrined in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame.

The late Dionisio (Chito) Calvo was among the first batch of 43 personages to be inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in March 2007.

Calvo was one of 24 posthumous inductees under the “contributors” category.

Three men – Leon Bouffard (Switzerland, the first FIBA president), R. William Jones (Great Britain) and James Naismith (Canada, the inventor of the game basketball) – were even classified as “gold contributors” along with the FIBA’s eight founding federations, which are Argentina, Czech, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland.

Who is Calvo?

Calvo was the head coach of the Philippine Olympic team that ranked fifth during the 1936 Berlin Games. The games marked the first time that basketball competitions were held. The fifth-lace finish remains the highest ranking by an Asian country in Olympic men’s basketball history.

Calvo also steered the PH team to 12th place in the 1948 London Olympics. Likewise, he mentored the Filipinos to the men’s basketball gold during the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1951.

As an organizer, Calvo initiated the formation of the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC), the harbinger of the FIBA Asia Championship, in 1960.

According to the official FIBA book “The Basketball World,” the idea of putting up the ABC was first brought up in 1958 in Tokyo by basketball leaders from various Asian countries competing in the Third Asian Games, which included basketball.

An urgent need was felt to set up a regional controlling body of basketball in Asia and a temporary committee under the chairmanship of Calvo was constituted to look into this possibility.

Through the efforts of Calvo, the first Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for men was initiated in January 1960 in Manila.

Seven countries – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Malaya (now Malaysia) and the Philippines – saw action in the tournament. Along with Pakistan, they also attended the Conference at which the draft constitution of the ABC was adopted and the participating countries admitted as members.

Call it homecourt advantage, the Philippines romped away with the first ABC title in 1960, winning all of its nine assignments. Carlos Badion was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The ABC was not officially founded until the second Asian Conference and Basketball Championship for Men was staged in Taipei in November 1963. Attended by nine countries, the ABC constitution and bylaws were ratified during the gathering. Officials such as then-Senator Ambrosio Padilla, president, and Calvo, secretary general, were elected to lead the organization.

The Conference also resolved to hold men’s championships biennially, while avoiding the even-numbered years wherein the Summer Olympic Games and Asian Games were staged.

In the local basketball scene, Calvo also organized the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) in 1938. The MICAA league, of course, was the precursor of the professional Philippine basketball Association (PBA).

The late Gonzalo (Lito) Puyat II was once a candidate for the FIBA Hall of Fame but the former two-term FIBA president (1976-84) failed to make the grade.


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