Jordan Clarkson: Bridging the basketball dreams of the Los Angeles Lakers and The Philippines
Lakers fans all around the world rejoiced when the Los Angeles Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell as the second overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft. Sure, some were skeptical about the pick, as other preferred a big guy, specifically Jahlil Okafor, to be the next great big man for the Lake Show. But with the Russel pick, as unfair as it might sound, the Lakers faithful are expecting him to be the next great guard for the Lakers, just like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. But Russel is not the only young guard in the Lakers lineup that the Purple and Gold fans are pinning their hopes and dreams for the future.
Over the years, a lot of guards made their impact for the Lakers, although not in the “franchise player mode” like Magic and Kobe. Derek Fisher comes to mind as an important guard for those championship teams. And even though they did not win a title for the Los Angeles Lakers, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel developed a following during the Lakers run during the 1990s. And there is another guard who can join that list, a man whose roots can be traced in another basketball loving country, Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson.
During his rookie year last season, not much was expected from Jordan Clarkson. He was selected by with Washington Wizards in the second round as the 46th overall pick; then was traded to the Lakers. When he made the lineup, a lost of fans and critics just expected him to stay on the bench behind other guards such as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin. Clarkson was even assigned to the D-league for most of the first half of the season as he played for the Lakers D-League team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
But (no thanks) to the injuries of several of the Lakers guards, Jordan was able to get a lot of playing time during the second half of the season. He finished the season with averages of 11.9 PPG, 3.5 APG and 3.2 RPG, enough for him to make it to the All-NBA first team, a rarity for a second round draftee. And even though he won that award, he still showed his willingness to learn and improve, by playing for the Lakers Summer league team this year, giving fans a glimpse of the Clarkson-Russel backcourt, a backcourt that the Lakers fans are hoping that can bring the Lakers back to the playoffs in the near future.
But that is only one side of his story. For the Southern California basketball fans, and the rest of the basketball fans of the United States, Jordan Clarkson is a key player for the Los Angeles Lakers. But in another part of the world, somewhere in South East Asia, his is an inspiration. Jordan Clarkson is half-Filipino, and basketball is the undisputed king in the Philippines (of course, there is Manny Pacquiao, but that is a different topic altogether).
There is a basketball court in just about every corner. People just watch NBA in the morning (take not of the 12-hour time difference of the Philippines and the US East Coast) and watch the local college and pro-leagues in the afternoon all the way in the evening. Ball is life and the countless NBA players who visited the Philippines, either for an NBA sanctioned tour or to promote their signature shoes, can attest to that.
Jordan Clarkson visited Manila this June. He even watched the NBA finals in an NBA Café in Manila, much to the delight of the basketball loving public. He also had a meet and greet in a local NBA store. He was showered with love and affection not only by the Lakers fans in Manila, but NBA fans in general as well. Clarkson is only the second player of Filipino descent to make it to the NBA. The first one was Raymond Townsend who played for teams such as the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers during the late 70’s to the early 80’s. There are other Filipino players who are trying to make it to the NBA who played in the recently concluded NBA Las Vegas Summer League. One of them is Bobby Ray Parks Jr., who went undrafted in the 2015 NBA draft but made it to the Dallas Mavericks Summer League team. The jury is still out if Parks can make it to the NBA, and the basketball obsessed nation of the Philippines are hoping that Parks can be the first “homegrown” Filipino player in the NBA.
For now, Jordan Clarkson is the only representative of the Philippines to the premier basketball league in the world. Passport issues are preventing Jordan Clarkson to play for the National Team of the Philippines. But he is still representing the Philippines, in the NBA, as he continue to shine in the NBA’s marquee franchise, and hopefully, he can continue to be an inspiration to the Filipino people, as he helps the Lakers back to the top of the basketball world.