The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) will not die


PHILIPPINES – There were fears politics would put an end to the highly popular Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournaments a few weeks ago.

The fate of the 42-year old institution (since 1975) hang in the balance as the league was torn asunder by two warring groups: San Miguel Group and the MVP Group (Manny Pangilinan).

Seven Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) teams led by the MVP Group ( TNT, NLEX, and Meralco) joined by Alaska, Phoenix, Blackwater, and Rain Or Shine wanted PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa to resign.

This was an offshoot of Narvasa’a approval of a trade between Franchise Player-rookie Fil-German workhorse Christian Standhardinger of KIA in exchange for three inferior role players from San Miguel. Such trade was deemed by them as lopsided to favor SMB- creating a powerhouse center line of 3-time MVP Junmar Fajardo and Standhardinger.

(A dirty side rumor that SMB will eventually buy the KIA franchise added oil to the glowing embers).

The MVP Group demanded for Narvasa’s resignation but the SMB Group (SMB, Magnolia, and Ginebra) joined by KIA (of course) and Globalport supported Chito. An impasse ensued that threatened to shatter an institution which has attracted a following of 72% of Filipinos or 53 million of the nation’s 103-million populace.

Narvasa, son of former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, saw the better side of prudence and resigned on December 17 and saved the PBA.

The Philippine Basketball Association

The Philippine Basketball Association, the oldest in Asian professional basketball and the most followed after the NBA has been a source of great advertising mileage for the PBA teams.

Despite the P 100 Million franchise fee and another P 100-M in yearly operating costs, Media Trackers believe the advertising mileage is 3 to 4 times operating costs or P 400-M every year.

There was a time when maintaining a PBA team was prohibitive when there were no salary caps on the salaries of stars that went as high as P5- Million a year plus bonuses and incentives that equaled the pay of some CEOs in the corporate world. (Recall the P25- Million 5 year deal for star Alvin Patrimonio?)

Now, there is a ceiling on salaries and the lowest paid player is now getting only P50, 000 and limits on winning bonuses except the championship which is a corporate winner’s prerogative have been imposed. Expenses are now more manageable.

But the goodwill and promotional value are almost hard to quantify. Look at the 12 teams today- why are they there?

SMB has fortified its bid as the best beer in the country through the years. Ginebra was once Anejo Rhum and Gilbey’s Gin -all marketed successfully.

Rain or Shine Paints attributed its being the No 1 elastomeric paint due to basketball starting with their Philippine Basketball League (PBL) days in 1996. Alaska remains a very recognizable family milk. And Magnolia a leading ice cream brand.

Blackwater men’s fragrance and perfume have been steadily gaining ground as an entry of the Ever Bilena Group while KIA Picanto is selling its image as a compact city car built by Koreans.

Phoenix Petroleum wanted to be known immediately as it is the first independent oil company breaking into the stranglehold of the Big Three after the Oil Deregulation period while TNT is part of the telco names under PLDT with Smart and Sun.

There are three PBA companies whose presence is hard to explain except for merely cultivating goodwill. Meralco, a franchise power distributor – a monopoly of sorts and NLEX (a leading road toll developer) are two of them.

Globalport who runs various piers can only be there perhaps because its Chair Mikee Romero is a youthful sports-minded fellow.

And so – all’s well that ends well with Chito’s resignation. The most popular tournament has just kicked off. Expect SMB and Ginebra to figure out in the championship. Gives one an idea why the MVP Group was bitching about the Standhardinger lopsided trade.

The PBA, ah, it’s too good to die – due to any reason.

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