Monday, January 14, 2013

Thailand Slammers 50 at Singapore Slingers 56 (ASEAN Basketball League) - January 13, 2013

If you measure a sport's popularity by the number of national federations that belong to the international governing body, basketball is surprisingly tops in the world. The Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA) boasts 213 members to 209 for FIFA, soccer's far more famous counterpart. Of course, I'd never argue that there are more people playing basketball than soccer, but it does show that both sports have fans around the world. So it should be no surprise that Southeast Asia has a basketball league of its own, known as the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). ASEAN stands for the Association of South East Asian Nations and bears no relation to my name, although A Sean Basketball League does have a certain ring to it.

Formed in 2009, the ABL has just started its fourth season with six teams, two less than contested the 2012 campaign. Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, and Singapore host squads that will play a 20-game slate over four months. The local team is known as the Slingers, a nickname that evokes both a basketball term and the world-famous concoction, the Singapore Sling. They finished 5th last season with a 9-12 record; perhaps the most impressive stat is they scored the same number of points as they allowed, 1,536 or about 73 per game.

This past weekend was the opener for 2013 and the Slingers had a home date against the Thailand Slammers, who were the cellar dwellers from 2012. Suffering from a dearth of live sports, I headed over to the Singapore Indoor Stadium to add another league to my list.

Singapore Indoor Stadium

I visited here at the end of last year for the Clash of Continents Tennis Tournament and briefly wrote  about it then, intending to provide a more detailed review this time around. However, the stadium amenities are so basic that there is very little to talk about.

As you enter, there are several banners displaying the word "Welcome" in different languages; this might be the only unusual feature (above).

For basketball, there are three ticket choices, with $19 being the most expensive that get you close to the floor. I opted for the general admission seats which are just $9 and are in the upper deck. As you can see in the shot of the box office above, the Slingers are not a popular pastime. I'd guess the stadium was barely 20% full and ushers were not checking tickets, so you could pretty much sit anywhere you wanted. I spent the first half by myself in the upper deck, then moved lower for the second half. At no point did anyone ask to see my ticket, and frankly, why would they bother? The ushers were helpful though, always asking me if there was anything they could do for me.

Food and beverage are quite limited and overpriced (2 beers for $25!), so I didn't bother partaking. There are a few restaurants on the riverside part of the stadium that make for much better destinations before or after the game. My recommendation is Brewerx, a local microbrewery with decent pizza and other snacks.

With less than 2,000 fans on hand, there were approximately 11,000 empty seats. This didn’t bode well for the atmosphere, but things got worse once the action started. Whenever the Slingers were on defense, the MC said “Let’s D up!” and tried to get a “D-Fence” chant going while the PA system played monotonous recorded clapping. He also let us know whenever there was a rebound although on several occasions, he called a defensive rebound a turnover. One of the funnier things was when the MC told the teams to “return to the court” after a timeout. I thought that was the referee’s job.

There were some cheerleaders (Slingerls, above, practicing before the game) who used slingshots (get it?) to send t-shirts into the crowd during timeouts. Quarter breaks and halftime saw a couple of typical games such as the one featuring kids trying to shoot hoops after donning oversized basketball uniforms.

The roof is pretty cool

Sadly, these were the most entertaining aspects of the afternoon as the quality of basketball was very bad. Singapore Indoor Stadium is a top-notch venue but there is precious little sport that makes it worthwhile to visit.

The Game

I didn't have high expectations for this league, but even then I was surprised at just how bad both teams were at shooting. The first quarter saw a combined 7/40 from the floor, or 17.5%. It wasn't like the defence was smothering, it was just that the players missed easy shot after easy shot. It was brutal to watch as the first quarter ended 10-8 for Singapore.

The second quarter was somewhat better (well, it had to be) and Singapore used a nice run to head into the half with a 35-23 advantage. They fell apart in the third quarter though, scoring only 8 points as Thailand cut the lead in half with just ten minutes left.

The Slammers kept the pressure on but their shooting remained awful and they couldn't quite get themselves over the hump despite getting with 2 a couple of times. The final was 56-50 for Singapore with the combined shooting percentage an unbelievably bad 31%.

I don't know if I can struggle through another one of these games. Even though $9 is not a lot of money, the basketball is likely worse than Division III. These players have not grown up with the game and although each team had a couple of Americans (perhaps the most famous is Rashad Jones-Jennings   who led Division I in rebounding in 2006-07, that's him on the right above, missing an easy layup), the talent differential was too much for the team to play in a cohesive manner. I was planning a trip to Jakarta to see a game in May and by then, perhaps the teams will have gelled and the entertainment value might make the trip worthwhile. But if not, I'll be giving this league a pass for the rest of the season.


The Slammers were coached by Joe "Jellybean" Bryant (above), father of Kobe. I DVR'd the game and when I returned, watched the post-game show. Bryant was interviewed and was extremely positive about his team despite their woeful performance. He said that most of them were local Thai players who had never played at this level and he expected them to improve over the season. It was nice to see a coach saying good things about his team rather than chewing them out after an embarrassing loss.

This was venue 396 for me. The rules indicate that you may count a venue twice if it hosts a different sport or different professional or college franchise in the same sport, so this counts as the 50th basketball arena in which I have seen a game. Only baseball (191) and hockey (77) have more visits, next on the list is soccer with 29. I have seen events in 85 different "leagues" as well.

Next Up

The rest of January will be very quiet as I prepare for what may be my only trip to North America this year. I'll be stopping in Japan for a week before that and will check out Tokyo's new entry in the bj League before flying to Dallas to start two weeks on the road watching lots of basketball as well as the first couple of weekends in the NCAA baseball season. The NHL is also back, and my boycott will be tested as the Leafs are in Long Island while I am visiting New York. Check back in February for updates on what promises to be an exciting trip.



1 comment:

  1. Your reviews often make me giggle... A Sean basketball league (ASEAN). Funny. I'm sending you an email on your 'rules' for counting a stadium. Congrats on your venue count. Very impressive and way beyond my total. Keep it going!