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List of Articles by Eddie Alinea


PBA: 35 years and counting

By Eddie Alinea
19 Apr 2010

Year 1975, three years after the declaration of Martial Law, was the year considered as ripe for a revolution in sports. Basketball was the first to rise up in arms, not necessarily against the system the sport was being ran, but to provide players with something to go earn a living as professionals and the public a form of entertainment through the sport Filipinos love most.

Earlier that year, with the government as promoter, heavyweight greats in sweet science – Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier – came this shore in doing battle for what turned out the ‘Fight of the Century’ aptly called ‘Thrilla in Manila.’
On April 9 that year nine amateur ball clubs banded together and plunged into action in what would be the country’s and Asia’s first professional league under the cloud of doubts as to lasts for even a year.

Turbulence attended the Philippine Basketball Association’s birth like Crispa, then the team that was dominating the amateur ranks, did not field the full compliment of its champion Redmanizers.

Players’ fights, suspensions and even detention of court hooligans marked the opening season sending detractors grinning from ear-to-ear adding to the expectation that, indeed, it won’t last for more than a season.

They were mistaken. The PBA, led by founding president Emerson Coseteng and commissioner Leo Prieo and the men that made up the first board – Danny Floro of Crispa, Don Pablo Carlos of Delta Motors Corp. Walter Euyang of Universal Textiles, Domingo Itchon of the Elizalde Group of Companies, Leonardo “Skip”: Guinto of San Miguel Corp., Jose Lim of Concepcion Industries, Enrique Villaflor of Seven Up and Porfirio Zablan of Consolidated Foods Corp. saw to it that the league would live up to their expectations.
The league grew up liked a baby, rivalries grew more thrilling and oftentimes bitter and, most importantly the basketball public bought the idea supporting it and patronizing the games.
And from the time arch-rivals Toyota Comets dominated the opening two conferences and the Crispa Redmanizers took the prestigious Philippine Cup, there was no stopping the PBA from becoming the cheapest and the most loved sports and entertainment show in the country.

That Crispa and Toyota dominated he first decade of the league’s existence dividing between them the first 29 tournaments held with the Redmanizers scooping up 13 championships, including a pair of Grandslams in 1976 and 1983 and the Comets bringing home the bacon nine times, it came as a blessing in disguise.

For the two pioneer teams that produced heroes in the mold of William “Bogs” Adornado, Robert “Sonny” Jaworski, Atoy “Fortune Cookie” Co, Philip Cezar, Francis Arnaiz, Abet Guidaben and Alfredo Hubalde, provided the cushion that made the league survive the disbandment ofToyota and Crispa one after the other in 1984 and 1985.
Proof of this is San Miguel’s winning the league’s third season sweep in 1989 following Crispa’s pair in 1976 and 1983 and Alaska Milk’s owning its own in 1996. Toyota bade the league goodbye after winning nine championships . That happened when the country slumped ino its worst economic crunch. Crispa followed Toyota’s fate even as games were moved to a new home at the ULTRA in Pasig City.

Jaworski turned into playing coach bringing to Ginebra San Miguel his throng of admirers and making the Kings the newest darling of the crowd. He guided the San Miguel-owned franchise to four championships starting in 1986 before imposing a self-imposed retirement in the late 90s.
The PBA celebrated its silver anniversary in 2000 highlighted by honoring 25 of its greatest products – Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, Jaworski, Adornado, Allan Caidic, Abet Guidaben, Benjie Paras, Vergel Meneses, Kenneth Duremdes, Johnny Abarrientos, Atoy Co, Ato Agustin Freddie Hubalde, Ricky Brown and Philip Cezar, who, at one time or another were named MVPs.
Joining them in the list were non-MVPs Manny Paner, Jerry Codineras, Jojo Lastimosa,Hector Calma, Samboy Lim, Danny Florencio, Ronnie Magsanoc, Bernie Fabiosa, Lim Eng Beng and Francis Arnaiz.

No other sports association in the annals of Philippine sports has made so much impact – and has survived for nearly half of a century – as the PBA did.

At the halfway mark of its 35th season on the way to its Golden Anniversary 15 years from now the burden of carrying the torch now lies on the shoulders of the present 10 crop of campaigners – San Miguel the only remaining league pioneer, sister clubs Ginebra and Purefoods, Alaska, Barako Bull, Air 21, Coca Cola and Rain or Shine.

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