NBA stars have visited it and been awed by it. An entire community has been spared destruction because of it.
Sunday’s season premiere of SC Featured on SportsCenter will tell the story of the basketball court at the Taguig Tenement in the Philippines, a dilapidated, seven-story concrete building used as a housing project for thousands of Filipinos in one of the poorest areas of Manila. The government is currently trying to evacuate the structure, deeming it unfit for living, but the residents have refused to leave, mainly because of the basketball court at the center of the property.
The court is painted with beautiful murals that frequently change, as was the case last week when pictures of the court’s Kobe and Gianna Bryant mural were shared worldwide.
Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, the only Filipino-American player in the NBA, narrates the story, which was produced by Kristen Lappas for ESPN Features.
“I actually pitched this story more than three years ago,” Lappas said. “I thought unique sports venues that impact communities around the world could be a really cool concept for a show on our air and I just started looking. And I found an article written about the basketball court.
“It’s striking,” she said. “It’s one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been. It looks almost like an archaic coliseum when you look at the images of it. So the first photo I saw, I was just struck with how different and beautiful the court was.”
Lappas got the green light to delve further into her idea and conducted more research, including having a contact on the ground in Manila go to the site. She learned that LeBron James, Paul George and Clarkson had visited the tenement court, and that 3,000 people live there.
“For all 3,000 people, no matter what their role is in the community, whether they play basketball or not, the court is the center of life for everybody,” she said. “A meeting ground, a place they hold festivals. Their national pastime is basketball and everything in this community revolves around this one basketball court.
“And in a place where they live in tiny, tiny apartments, and they don’t have running water, they find joy and pride in this place at the heart of their community. I just thought that was really fascinating.”
“Saving the Tenement” will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter on ESPN, with multiple re-airs in other editions of the program in the following days. A companion piece written by Wayne Drehs was published on ESPN.com Sunday.