Photo credit: Branimir Balogović via Pexels
By Kriel Ibarrola
Ball is life. That’s actually quite the understatement when talking about the country’s love affair for basketball. Pinoys adore basketball so much that we pretty much coined our own language and jargons about it that only we can understand.
Here, we’ve narrowed down 10 of the most popular Tagalog slang that you’re probably familiar with!
Meaning: To have a huge lead on the scoreboard.
Sample use in a sentence: “Wala na. Finish na, tambak na ang kalaban.”
During one-sided NBA games, we often hear the phrases like a blowout win or a lopsided victory. But in the Philippines, we simply describe one team’s total domination of another as “tambak.”
It’s pretty much used on all levels of basketball—from the professional teams playing inside MOA arena or the pick-up games in your resident kanto. There’s really no exact number as to what constitutes an official tambak. But double-digit leads usually fall in this category.
Let’s just put it this way, if the opposing team’s margin on the scoreboard is greater than all the numbers in the calendar, then obviously, natambakan na kayo.
Meaning: Ball hog. A player who controls and shoots the ball in excess, instead of giving teammates a pass.
Sample use in a sentence: “Ang bakaw mo naman bro, tira ka nang tira, pumasa ka naman.”
Since basketball is a team sport, the biggest insult you can get is being labeled as a selfish player. Everyone who has played basketball probably had a teammate like this one at one point in their lives. And if you haven’t, there’s a high chance that it’s YOU who is the bakaw one in your team.
While it’s meant to be an unflattering remark, some bakaw players even see it as a compliment or a badge of honor. After all, NBA legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have all been called bakaw at one point in their careers. The fictional Kaede Rukawa from Slam Dunk also comes to mind.
The word “Buwaya” is also associated with this term. However, we probably should refrain from using it since it might be offensive to actual crocodilians and some politicians (Yep, we said it.)
Meaning: A benchwarmer. A substitute player who barely gets playing time.
Sample use in a sentence: “Uy, ayan na ipinasok na yung bangko!” (*Crowd cheers in a sarcastic manner.)
Bangko’s direct translation from Tagalog is bench. Since five players from each team are only allowed on the floor at the same time, other members will be lounging on the bench.
However, not all of them will get a chance to play. There’s always a couple of players who will average more handshakes and fist bumps than actual points.
In the pros, it’s usually the older players or the inexperienced rookies. In high school, it’s probably the smaller, scrawnier kid who was just lucky enough to make the team.
For every LeBron James there will always be a Jared Dudley. These players often see the floor ‘pag tambak na ang kalaban.
Meaning: to block the ball emphatically.
Sample use in a sentence: “James Yap, sumalaksak, ooohhh supalpal ang inabot kay Japeth Aguilar!”
Defense wins championships. As long as you have a good shot-blocker on your team, chances of winning are pretty high. Since shot-blocking is an artform, it needed a cool-sounding name in Filipino. No one knows where butata and supalpal originated, but it does sound cruel, right?
Victims na nabutaan or nasupalpalan will often hear some “oohs” from the crowd followed by some trash talk from the hecklers and the mirons.
Heck, even the PBA adopted this term and were giving out “Hari ng Tapal” awards back in the day!
Meaning: A good shooter. A marksman from a long distance. An accurate player who shoots at an efficient rate.
Sample use in a sentence: “Kay Matthew Wright mo ipasa, surebol yun sa tres. Swak lahat ng tira.“
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Those guys are surebols (sure balls). If you’re from an older generation, Allan Caidic is regarded as the most surebol player in PBA history.
When left wide open, these guys are automatic bucket getters. They let it fly with ease and often send the crowd in a frenzy.
“Swak” is another term usually followed by surebol. It’s the literal sound the ring makes when a ball hits nothing but net.
Meaning: fixed game
Sample use in a sentence: “Ayoko nang manuod, luto ang laban!’ (*Turns off TV in disgust.)
Referees do play a vital part in the outcome of a basketball game. If you’re quite familiar with the ligang barangay scene, chances are you’ve probably heard of this one.
And no, they’re not talking about what they’ll cook for lunch. When one team suddenly gets called for phantom fouls and unfavorable calls, expect fans and even some players and coaches to scream “luto!” Even professional leagues like the PBA and the NBA have dealt with “luto” controversies over the years.
Meaning: Excessively physical, boorish play on the court.
Sample use in a sentence: “Grabe si JuneMar, nangangalabaw na naman sa ilalim.”
Not a lot of players are blessed with speed, athleticism, or the talent to become a surebol shooter. So instead, they just overcompensate for their shortcomings by being ultra-physical down-low.
Nangangalabaw, after all, is a wordplay from the kalabaw or carabao. Big and hefty players are usually the culprits of this type of play. More often than not, they’re as strong as the kalabaw, hence the term.
We mostly see these types of players in the streets and half-court games, especially if it’s pustahan (money game). And yes the physicality of Pinoy’s MMA-style 3x3 games can be downright violent!
The Bad Boys Detroit Pistons team of the 80s would have definitely been proud.
Meaning: Put some “English” on the ball. A finger roll lay-up.
Sample use in a sentence: “Ang lupit nung tira ni kuya, may pektus.”
Pektus is a weird word since it doesn’t translate to the English language. It’s a Filipino term associated with sports, particularly basketball.
It’s supposed to be an arcane technique involving the wrists, which gives the ball a unique spin to move in a certain trajectory. Trick shots from impossible angles are usually made possible because of pektus.
Remember NBA superstar “The Iceman” George Gervin back in the 70s and 80s? He is a master of the pektus.
Meaning: A form of trash talk for someone you just schooled.
Sample use in a sentence: “Huwag ka nang lumaban, panis ka naman sa akin.”
In Tagalog, panis translates to rotten food. But on the court, it’s pretty much an insult to someone’s skills (or lack thereof).
You just dropped your defender with a slick crossover? Panis. He tried to dunk over you, but got supalpal-ed? Panis. You just drained a long 3-pointer right in his face? Panis.
Patay ang butiki
Meaning: An attempted shot that hit the side of the backboard instead of the rim.
Sample use in a sentence: “Shaq for threeee, patay ang butiki”.
Like we said earlier, not everyone who plays has a surebol jumper. Some players’ aim is so bad that they miss the target completely.
Patay ang butiki pretty much translates to “A lizard just died.” Yep, that’s it. One fool probably killed an unsuspecting lizard back in the day with his poor shooting skills.