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GREATS ONLY: Jordan Brand teams up with Ateneo

Two of the greatest: Jordan Brand partners with Ateneo de Manila University.

Fly high.

These are the first words any student, teacher, or staff will hear when they enter the Ateneo Grade School just before their flag ceremony. Etched in the minds of Ateneans, even as mere children, is the idea of flying high.

Ateneans, no matter their age or gender, are taught to aim for the sky and to believe in themselves in everything that they do. In two words, Ateneans are taught by their teacher to Be Legendary.

It’s only fitting that the Ateneo Basketball Program this season will be outfitted by Jordan Brand. Ateneo fans, and basketball enthusiasts in general, will be excited about the possibility of wearing Jordan gear that sports the colors of one of their own. Jordan is outfitting the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams with jerseys, shorts, tees, and jackets–all sporting the Jordan logo.

The Best in College Basketball together with Greatest of All Time.

Ateneo becomes the first-ever university in Southeast Asia and the only university outside of the US to be sponsored by the Jordan Brand. The brand associated with greatness has a shared DNA with the school also linked to all things great. 

The partnership is deeply rooted in the love for the game, the commitment to invest in the future generation and building equity for women players. But this partnership isn’t just about Ateneo’s present. Getting here was also a result of their rich past and hopeful future. 

Fly high, over the trees make known to the breeze our victories.

The Ateneo basketball fans of today are known for being loud, confident, and proud. And they can back it up. A five-peat the previous decade. A record-setting sweep just before the pandemic. Title favorites coming into Season 84. This is the reality opposing fans are going to be facing again as we welcome the UAAP back into our lives.

There was a time when it was hard for Ateneans to back up their pride. There was a time when they’d try to fly high, over the trees, yet there weren’t any victories to inform people of. Enter the ’90s: the Dark Ages of Ateneo Basketball. 

After two straight championships in the late 80s, the Ateneo Basketball program failed to build on its success. While UST, La Salle, and FEU were racking up championships, the Blue Eagles were racking up losses. It seemed funny at first, especially given Ateneans’ nature of taking on their chin. But eventually, people acknowledged that something had to be changed.

Enter Joe Lipa, who looked to change the game for the Blue Eagles by recruiting key players during the later part of the ‘90’s. Aside from securing pieces from the Ateneo High School pipeline, he outsourced from other schools by getting players such as LA Tenorio and Magnum Membrere from the San Beda Red Cubs, and of course, Rich Alvarez from Japan.

It didn’t lead to immediate results. The Blue Eagles lost in the Final Four in back-to-back years, and they had their hearts broken against La Salle in the Finals in 2001. While Coach Joe left the program after that Finals loss, you couldn’t deny the fact that he had built something with this ball club. They weren’t going to write a book because they went from 5-9 to runner-ups in three years, but they were going to grow from the foundation that they had built. 

Season 65 for the Blue Eagles started out slow for the program, but they picked up the pace during the second round. They ended with a bang by beating La Salle in the elimination round, preventing the Green Archers from sweeping. Those key pieces that Coach Joe secured were monumental in the success of Ateneo. But things were going to get even better.

The Blue Eagles, now led by Coach Joel Banal, used the high of their elimination round finish to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage against the James Yap-led UE Red Warriors. Things continued to go up, as the Blue Eagles finished the job by exacting revenge on their archrivals in the Finals, beating them in three games to finally with the program’s first championship in 14 years. 

The We Believe Blue Eagles? The UnderEagles? Whatever you want to call them, that group of Blue Eagles is fondly remembered by alumni because of the journey that they went through. But they should also be remembered for one other thing: being the group that served as the spark for a Blue Eagle revolution that turned a dwindling ball club into a College Basketball superpower.  

Spread wide your wings for you are the (queen)

The Ateneo Women’s Basketball program admittedly hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success as its men’s counterparts. After two championships during the mid 2000’s, the Lady Eagles have been relegated to the sidelines for the most part. 

But limiting the legacy of the Ateneo Women’s Basketball program to just inside the court wouldn’t do them justice, especially coming from an institution like Ateneo. 

Mens sana in corpore sano; A sound mind in a sound body. This is preached by coaches from Day One and the Lady Eagles are a great example of putting this saying into practice. There are some very notable examples. 

While Mariana Lopa was part of the last Lady Eagles team to bring a Women’s Basketball championship to Katipunan, her legacy goes beyond her contributions inside the court. After her collegiate career, she opted to take up law. She pushed through to complete her law degree, and ultimately, became a practicing lawyer.

But her impact goes beyond the courts. She’s also the Managing Director for Girls Got Game (GGG), where she helps lead an inspired team to teach and encourage girls to take up sports. Sports have been male-dominated for the longest time, and groups like this being led by Lopa are important in bridging that gap. 

Lopa is proof that your impact in sports doesn’t have to be measured in rings. It can also be measured by the number of people you inspire to break boundaries. 

Blue Eagle The King.

Dynastic groups. Inspiring individuals. All aiming for greatness, like how they’re taught from day one. 

The Blue Eagles’ new partnership with Jordan Brand is merely a chapter–albeit an important one–in its rich history. 

They wouldn’t have gotten here if not for their elders. Their present will pay respects to their past to create an even brighter future for their basketball program. Just so happens their present will be draped in gear that’s approved by the GOAT. 

Greatness begets greatness.