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by Henry L. Liao
To local basketball fans, he may not ring a bell. But on the international stage, Dionisio (Chito) Calvo stood tall.
The late Calvo is the lone Filipino who is enshrined in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame.
Calvo was among the first batch of 43 personages to be inducted into the FIBA Hall in March 2007.
Calvo was one of the 24 posthumous inductees under the “contributors” category.
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-place finish remains the highest-ranking by an Asian country in Olympic men’s basketball history.
Calvo also piloted the PH national 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 in 1960. The ABC has since been renamed the FIBA Asia Championship.
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, a multi-sport quadrennial event that included basketball.
An urgent need was felt to set up a regional controlling body for 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 nations – 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 named 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 representatives from nine countries, the ABA constitution and bylaws were ratified during the gathering. Officials such as then-Philippine Senator Ambrosio Padilla, president, and Calvo, secretary-general, were elected to lead the organization.
The Conference additionally 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 post-graduate Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) league in 1938.
The MICAA, of course, was the precursor of the professional Philippine Basketball Association PBA).
A side note: 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.