MANILA (Philippines) - The fan favorite Manila Masters on May 20-21 lived up to the hype as the FIBA 3x3 World Tour returned to the Philippines in spectacular fashion.
Let's look back at an incredible two days of action.
Ub Huishan NE are literally unbeatable in 2023
No Nemanja Barac, no problem for Ub Huishan NE who have won 10 straight World Tour games in 2023.
Without the muscular Barac, their glue guy, Ub looked vulnerable and they did face more challenges than at the Utsunomiya Opener.
But Ub passed all the tests, including a spectacular comeback on Day One against Utsunomiya BREX EXE (JPN) then thrilling knockout wins over Amsterdam HiPRO (NED), Beijing (CHN) and Futian (CHN).
Towering Chinese player YuXuan Liu impressed at times with his ability to score at the rim, but Ub leaned on their three stars - Strahinja Stojacic, Dejan Majstorovic and Marko Brankovic - to repeat as champs.
Stojacic claimed his second straight MVP with another attacking performance, while Majstorovic - highlighted by his incredible Maurice Lacroix Buzzer Beater against Amsterdam - and Brankovic were clutch.
Right now, Ub look impossible to stop.
Chinese teams Futian and Beijing have arrived
There was a lot of anticipation over the World Tour debuts of Chinese teams Futian and Beijing, who loaded up with a pair of splashy recruits each. They did not disappoint.
Futian had a dazzling run and only just fell short of a Masters title first up, but there was a lot to like.
Former Amsterdam star Dimeo van der Horst was a walking bucket to finish No.1 in points (42) and player value (46.2), while ex-Antwerp talisman Thibaut Vervoort was again an assassin with the game on the line.
Beijing also impressed with a semi-final run before also falling to Ub, but former Riga superheroes Karlis Lasmanis and Nauris Miezis once again unleashed their trademark one-two punch.
The chemistry of both teams was impressive as Futian and Beijing immediately served warning to the competition.
San Juan are the real deal
The Puerto Ricans decided to go with their New Gen as they eye next year's Paris Olympics.
San Juan's players are 26 and under and sticking with youth appears a wise strategy after they became the surprise packets to reach the semi-finals.
San Juan were unbeaten in a tough Pool B after thrilling wins over No.2 seeds Riga (LAT) and Dusseldorf LFDY (GER) before beating in-form Sansaar MMC Energy (MGL) in the quarters.
A new star emerged with Antonio Ralat lethal in the clutch, while athletic Luis Cuascut was a force at the rim on offense and defense.
San Juan have arrived and they are just getting started.
Tallo is box office
It was a tough tournament for hometown Manila Chooks, who were knocked out on Day One, but the fans at the Glorietta Activity Center still made plenty of noise when their hero Mac Tallo had the Wilson.
And 'Spida' did not disappoint against top team Ub with an electric display filled with insane plays consisting of a banked two, insane crossover and behind the back dime.
It all confirmed that Mac Tallo is a natural born entertainer.
Air 'David' puts on a show for the home fans
After a heart-breaking loss to Australian Brodie Stephens 12 months ago, local favorite David Carlos gained revenge by taking out the dunking crown.
'Air David's' spectacular dunks included a filthy slam over two volunteers and another over the Chooks-to-Go mascot as the mall's roof almost blew off due to the hollering from the fans.
It was sweet revenge for Carlos, who is building a rivalry with Stephens and we can't wait to see them go toe-to-toe again.
The Philippines is an amazing 3x3 destination
There is good reason why players love playing in the Philippines so much. Their passionate fans absolutely idolize hoops and they enhance every game with the atmosphere something like being in the middle of a nightclub.
The Philippines lived up to their reputation of boasting the most incredible - and surely loudest - 3x3 fans on the planet.
And the good news is that the World Tour returns to the Philippines with the Cebu Masters in September.
We can't wait.