Grantland editor Rafe Bartholomew, author of the seminal book on Philippine basketball Pacific Rims and occasional contributor to InterAKTV, wrote about the recent PLDT All-Star Basketball Challenge. Like most of his pieces on the Philippines, the whole article is a must-read.
While other mainstream American outlets have picked up on the game that saw Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and co. go up against legends from PBA’s yesteryears, only Bartholomew has the familiarity to tackle the minutiae of basketball in the Philippines. Our favorite part is when he takes a whole paragraph to introduce to Grantland’s American audience the wonders of the kilikili shot.
Then, late in the first, there is one actually wonderful basketball moment, when Marlou Aquino executes a perfect kilikili shot. What in the world is that? Kilikili means “armpit” in Tagalog, and the kilikili shot is a post move indigenous to Philippine basketball. With his back to the basket, Aquino twisted his torso to face the hoop without pivoting and squaring his feet, then extended his arm underneath the armpit of his defender and flipped in a bank shot. It’s an extremely awkward shot that creates contact, often draws fouls, and takes advantage of the fundamental post defensive technique of standing straight with your arms up to contest a shot. Instead of shooting over those arms, the offensive player scoops the ball up under them. Aquino was probably the last prominent big man to master the shot, which has fallen out of fashion in the PBA, although it’s still a common move in pickup and playground basketball throughout the Philippines. It’s not that effective against Filipino defenders, who are used to guarding it, but against Americans, it often leaves players with a sour look on their faces, as if to say, “What the hell was that?” Which seems to be what Chris Campbell, the victim of Aquino’s kilikili shot, expressed right after it passed through the hoop, when he looked at his teammates, shook his head, and shrugged.