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Jordan Clarkson part of history as first 2 players of Filipino descent share NBA court

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson waves to fans as he walks off the court following the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson waves to fans as he walks off the court following the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY β€” When Jordan Clarkson checked into the Utah's rout of Houston, he was part of history.

Clarkson and Houston rookie Jalen Green became the first two players of Filipino descent to share an NBA court; Clarkson's grandmother and Green's grandfather both hail from the Philippines.

For the special occasion, Houston held a Filipino Heritage Night and a shirt featuring Green's No. 0 was placed on each seat of the Toyota Center.

Clarkson has been vocal about his ancestry; and since joining the NBA, he has become a culture icon to many in the Philippines.

He's a household name in a country where basketball is often seen as the sport of choice. His highlights flood social media, and, according to the New York Times, fans in the country spent 45% more time watching the Jazz on League Pass than they had the previous season.

Many more were tuned in to see Thursday's game.

Clarkson, now, may have some competition when it comes to the Philippines' favorite player.

Green was taken with the No. 2 pick in July and has already turned heads after dropping 30 points in just his third pro game.

And, like Clarkson, Green is proud of his family's roots.

"They've been supporting me since my sophomore year (in high school)," Green told the Houston Chronicle. "That was the first time I went out there. I have a lot of fans over there. I see a lot on Twitter. I get tagged by a lot of Filipino fans. I did a couple Filipino interviews. So, they show a lot of love; it means a lot."

That love is something that Clarkson knows well.

Clarkson grew up in San Antonio hearing stories from his grandmother, Marcelina Tullao, about Pampanga, the province northwest of Manila. She made her grandson traditional Filipino dishes, and all that food and stories connected Clarkson to his ancestral home.

Once he got to the NBA, that home embraced him. Following his rookie year, Clarkson made a trip to the Philippines and drew large crowds wherever he went.

He felt the love, and he has returned it since then.

Last summer, Clarkson came to the aid of a local Filipino food truck after it had been vandalized with anti-asian slurs.

"For the Filipino community, he's like a hero," World Famous Yum Yum Food Truck owner Ben Piece said.

So getting to be part of the first matchup between two players with Filipino heritage was special for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

"There's Filipino support all all around the world," Clarkson said. "They love basketball. Us two being here, it's just like super inspirational for the youth and every Filipino-American, every Filipino, anybody with Filipino blood."

Clarkson scored 16 points for the Jazz; Green had 13 for the Rockets.

"I feel like it's just an amazing experience β€” something that never can be done again because we're the first," the Jazz guard said.

But he doesn't want them to be the last, either.

"Hopefully, we'll see more come through the league," Clarkson said.

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