Basketball: Boxer Manny Pacquiao scores first point of maligned pro career

Manila: Philippine boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has scored his first point as a professional basketballer, but it did little to douse criticism that the pint-sized guard does not belong on the court.

Pacquiao sank the second of two free throws after he was fouled on a lay-up 11 minutes into the match between his Kia Carnival team and the Purefoods Star Hotshots in the Philippine professional league on Wednesday night.

However Pacquiao, the shortest player on the court that night at 1.69 metres (5ft 6in), struggled to keep pace with his taller and stronger opponents. In just under five minutes of playing time, he did not score again, and a three-point attempt under no pressure ended in an air ball.

"I'm not used to this feeling," Pacquiao acknowledged afterwards when talking about scoring, his first point in three games since being drafted to the league in October last year. Pacquiao's team, which he also coaches, won 95-84, improving their standing in the league to ninth out of 12 teams with two wins and four losses.

Pacquiao has sought to turn his national hero status as a boxer into a dizzying array of other careers. Aside from trying to be a professional basketball player, he is a congressman with ambitions of becoming president of the Philippines.

He has also flirted with acting, singing and has made millions from endorsements. - Lampooned icon - But despite his popularity for boxing, he is often lampooned for lack of talent in the other fields, particularly basketball.

Purefoods player Daniel Orton, an American import, said after Wednesday night's game that Pacquiao on the court was a "joke", sentiments widely echoed in local basketball circles.

"He is not basketball material," former amateur basketball league commissioner Chino Trinidad told AFP. "Pacquiao is so gullible, he thinks he belongs. If he wants to become the butt of jokes, so be it."

Pacquiao was the oldest rookie to be drafted by the Philippine Basketball Association at 36 last year, opening the league to criticism for patronising the boxing champion.

"The league is supposed to be a dream factory for kids. But it turns out, you can buy your way into it," Trinidad said. "The problem with us Filipinos is we accommodate Pacquiao so much."

Pacquiao has also been criticised for a lack of commitment to politics. Last year, Pacquiao attended only four of 34 sessions in parliament, where he represents a poor farming province in the south.

But there's no denying the nation is behind Pacquiao as he looks to secure a mega-fight with his arch-rival American Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao said on Monday that the fight was "near", after he agreed to terms of a drug test demanded by Mayweather.

Both claim the "world's best pound-for-pound boxer" title. The mega-fight could go down in history as boxing's biggest and most lucrative, with a British newspaper reporting at the weekend that the pair had agreed to a $250-million deal.

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