I think I want to write this article.
A few days back, I wrote an article on how the best players (especially the Fil-Ams) need to veer away from the MPBL because apart from being overqualified... they could be stealing the spotlight from the players are supposed to cater.
Apparently, this is the league we are all waiting for and right now, they are the hot topic. At first one would think about the absurdity of this establishment considering how bonkers was Metroball... and the other leagues after it that featured the home and away format.
I guess this is why people want to take part in it. If you are not a PBA discard or you want to condition yourself for the PBA bump and grind, then Maharlika is the perfect avenue to display your skills.
Sure, the games aren't as polished as that of... the collegiate leagues... but for entertainment purposes, this is pretty much as hot as 3-on-3.
The Metropolitan Basketball Association started out as an alternative to the PBA. At that time, the PBA had eight teams. Allan Caidic is on the verge of retirement and Alvin Patrimonio was one year removed from capturing his fourth MVP title. Back then, a player needs to finish college, unleash his talents in the PBL… and do well enough to claim at least a first round spot in the PBA Draft. Way back when, Nelson Asaytono had to play second fiddle to Alvin Patrimonio, Vergel Meneses started out as the second scoring option after Allan Caidic, and Bal David had to wait for a year before getting a PBA contract.
Then the MBA happened.
The league gave more opportunities for ballers past and present. It even gave the likes of Alex Compton and Chris Clay an avenue to take flight. The league introduced us to the awesomeness of Dondon Hontiveros and was instrumental in giving the fans the superstar versions of Bong Ravena, Christian Calaguio, John Ferriols, Johnedel Cardel, and Romel Adducul.
But while the Free Threes, the 23-second shot clocks, and the Blitz Threes made the league weird, its organization as a whole caused the league to fold.
Why did they raided the college ranks? Why did the MBA position their selves as the second professional basketball league of the country? Why did they not think of airfare costs? How in the world would they pay for the monumental salaries?
And why would they go to all that trouble and all of a sudden let the PBA pirate their players?
The MBA folded on July 26, 2002. Most of their stars have crossed over to the PBA while the rest of their stars would participate in the 2003 PBA Draft. If a core of dependable MBA mainstays were rendered team-less in the 2001 and 2002 PBA Drafts, then the die is cast for the likes of Leo Bat-Og, Ralph Rivera, Dennis Madrid, Stephen Padilla, Jeffrey Sanders, Egay Echavez, Nonoy Sayon, Bruce Dacia, Rodel Manuel, and Melvin Taguines. Sure, some of these names were drafted and even had respectable stints in the only existing pro league in the Philippines at that time… but with just ten teams and a host of established names and incoming rookies to battle for spots, these players would either retire or send their talents to the lower-tiered commercial leagues.
Which is pretty much MPBL in a nutshell…
… only better.
As a player, Manny Pacquiao bombed. His highlights consist of a free throw, working on Chris Tiu to score a side shot, and a couple of go-ahead layups and three pointers because no one would dare guard Pacman during an all-star side event.
As a Philippine basketball contributor however, Pacquiao is revered for this unprecedented undertaking. MPBL came from modest beginnings and ended up as a surprise hit. Backed by the same network that jumpstarted the MBA, the MPBL learned from the latter’s mistakes. MPBL never positioned itself as a PBA competitor and featured a format that introduced barangay-level ballers and re-introduced former pros and college stars to a nationwide offense.
I guess this is why the MPBL reigns supreme than the PBA D-League. Backed by ABS-CBN, they adopted live fight nights in the wee hours. For sports fans, this is like a budget-friendly movie date or a non-alcoholic viewing party (although these folks may or may not trip down to a nearby watering hole assuming they are not watching these games inside a sports bar).
And yeah, having these games played in sports bars during walwal time is another important reason to its success.
Meanwhile, TV5 would rather show tagalized shows than give the D-League a timeslot. I know these shows may entertain a particular audience but these CANNED shows have longer shelf life as compared to a live event.
It also sucks that the PBA D-League ditched the whole “PBA farm team” concept. It’s hard to position one D-League team as a farm team if most of its players are ineligible to play in the league. Regardless of how great CJ Perez is, Baby Beast can’t be called upon by a random PBA team because he has yet to be drafted.
Can they really say that they are the D-League of the PBA with most of their teams backed by schools? Last season, Zark’s had Lyceum to back the team up with San Sebastian, Adamson, St. Clare, CEU, Letran, Emilio Aguinaldo, Perpetual Help, Jose Rizal, AMA, and St. Benilde fielding their own set of revved up rosters. I think Marinerong Pilipino is the only team with no collegiate affiliation… unless you include the disbanded Mila’s Lechon to the mix.
Where are the San Beda and Ateneo rosters!?!
Oh wait… MVP just made the Bataan Risers his team!
And here lies another problem for the D-League. With the PBADL relegated to the PBA halftime break where you can also see the entire play-by-play on Aksyon TV and the Sports5 YouTube page, it’s hard to give their players exposure. I guess this is why Bobby Ray Parks and Lawrence Domingo are eager to strut their wares in the MPBL.
But they aren’t the only ones trying to secure spots in the MPBL.
Joseph Yeo, Reil Cervantes, and Roger Yap will play for the Manila Stars. Gary David is still part of the Bataan Risers but could have some sort of OG moment with Jojo Tangkay joining the Basilan Pride and Patrick Cabahug going to the Zamboanga Valientes.
Don’t look now but we might see Prince and Ricci Rivero and actor Xian Lim playing for Mandaluyong El Tigre, Andre and Kobe Paras representing Imus Bandera, and Gerald Anderson finally realizing his basketball dream with the Marikina Shoemasters!
MPBL is like a cross between the MBA and Star Olympics?
This is not a bad thing though. Anderson is a 29-year-old actor who almost suited up for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Andre Paras is a 22-year-old actor who is 6’5 and has had stints in various collegiate and semi-pro leagues. Unlike Manny Pacquiao’s PBA stint, these players could bridge the gap between the avid basketball supporters and the casual fans. Sure, the PBA D-League are littered with college stars but these players aren’t exactly poster boys.
The only problem I see with MPBL’s current state is expansion. From ten teams, they could end up ballooning to more than twenty. I mean, what plan would Manny Pacquiao and Kenneth Duremdes have to stop the league from tumbling to the depths of earth.
Easily, the biggest appeal of the MPBL is that they positioned their selves as the alternative to the PBA. But unlike the MBA, they aren't delusional. One thing the MBA failed to get is that the PBA is the dream of almost all Pinoy ballers. Sure some would think they could be the next Michael Jordan... but the PBA is the more believable choice as compared to the NBA. I bet my balls that Dondon Hontiveros' basketball dream was never to play for the Cebu Gems - or the Cebu basketball leagues in general. Maybe he wanted to play for Ginebra, San Miguel, Purefoods, and even Alaska which at that point was a couple of years removed from a grand slam plum.
Right from the get go, Pacquiao stated in presscons and interviews that they are not going to go head-to-head with the PBA. They are humble enough to know the disparity between the two leagues.
Like I said, their positioning would give them enough leeway to survive more years as compared to the MBA.
I'm pretty sure the next best thing for Pinoy ballers everywhere is a chance to exhibit their talents in a bigger stage and for the former pros, a chance to finish their career as either a star player, or a champion, or finally having a sense of contentment.