Knicks pay tribute to first Filipino medical staff member in NBA

Alder Almo - Philstar.com
Knicks pay tribute to first Filipino medical staff member in NBA
Erwin Valencia
Instagram / Erwin Valencia

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The New York Knicks honored the first Filipino medical staff in the NBA during the Filipino Heritage Night at Madison Square Garden last Sunday. 

Erwin Benedict Valencia, the Knicks' physical therapist and wellness lead, was featured alongside NBA Filipino-American players Jordan Clarkson and Jalen Green and two-time NBA champion coach Erik Spoelstra in a video tribute. It was aired over the iconic arena's jumbotron during the first timeout of the first quarter in the game between the Knicks and the Cavaliers. 

"I'm very excited to live in a time when Filipinos and Filipino-Americans alike are celebrated on the biggest stage of a sport we have so much history and love for," Valencia said in a Twitter post.

Raised and educated in the Philippines, Valencia became the first Filipino to become part of the medical staff of any U.S. professional sports team. Before joining the Knicks, he was the Rehabilitation Director of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Major League Baseball for eight years. 

READ: Manifest It: New York Knicks' Filipino therapist's dreams are bigger than basketball

Over 1,400 Filipino-Americans from New York and nearby states attended the event hosted by the Knicks and NBA and co-organized by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). 

"There were countless memorable moments, especially seeing our fellow kababayan with big smiles on their faces," said NaFFAA chairperson Brendan Flores posted on his Instagram account. "It reminded me about the resilience, grit and hope of Filipinos in the U.S."

The Outstanding Filipinos in America (TOFA) led the singing of the U.S. national anthem before the game. 


The Filipino medical frontliners in New York were also recognized during the event. Throughout the game, the Filipino fans in attendance were also acknowledged with live shots. Music from top Filipino artists led by apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas and Philippine rap group Ex-Battalion was featured in in-venue player highlights. 


 It was the second Filipino Heritage Night hosted by the Knicks, who allocated a specially discounted blocked section for Filipino fans that came with Philippine-inspired Knicks hats. 

 In 2019, around 800 Filipino American members of the Staten Island Philippine American Group (Sipag New York), Queens Long Island Basketball, TOFA, Xanders Basketball and Rise Hoops headed by its president Banjo Albano, also the East Asia Super League head of the Philippines, watched the first Filipino Heritage Night featuring the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls. Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray also graced the event. 


Alder Almo is a former senior sportswriter for Philstar.com and NBA.com Philippines. He is now based in Jersey City, New Jersey, and writes for the New York-based sports website empiresportsmedia.com.

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