PBA gears for further expansion
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Expansion appears to be the way of the future for the PBA as there is now talk of 16 teams playing in the pro league by the 2016-17 season. At the moment, Hapee Toothpaste and the SM Group are in line to join the PBA in 2015-16. Two more franchises may be added beyond next campaign to bring the total membership to an all-time high of 16, indicating a growing popularity of the game that Filipinos love with a passion.

Hapee has taken a big leap forward by entering the PBA D-League with Ronnie Magsanoc as head coach this season. In the PBL, Hapee was a dominant force, winning championships in 1995-96 (Reinforced Conference), 2001-02 (Champions Cup) and 2002-03 (Unity Cup). The team was known as Kutitap, Dazz, Fash Liquid Detergent, Licealiz Shampoo and Hapee during its long PBL run that started in 1994. Among the players who saw action for the Lamoiyan Group were Rich Alvarez, Enrico Villanueva, Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, Gabe Norwood and Cyrus Baguio. Hapee’s biggest victory ever was capturing the 1996 FIBA Asia Champions Cup crown with imports Bobby Parks and Tony Harris and Danny Ildefonso coached by Junel Baculi.

Hapee president/CEO Dr. Cecilio Pedro signified his intent to join the PBA during the FIBA World Cup in Spain recently. He watched the Gilas games in the company of PBA officials and governors along with team owners Manny V. Pangilinan and Dioceldo Sy. 

Last Monday, the PBA began initial discussions with the SM Group over dinner in a private room at Todd English in SM Aura Global City. Attending the meeting were Sy and Wilbert Loa of Blackwater Elite, PBA commissioner Chito Salud, PBA media bureau chief/special assistant to the commissioner Willie Marcial, SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy, Golden City Builders owner/general contractor Manny Sy and Hyundai Elevator’s Sergio Yu. Hans Sy also oversees the operations of the Mall of Asia Arena and the SM Group’s basketball involvement with National University. Manny Sy supports the NU seniors team, Yu the NU juniors team and Dioceldo Sy the NU women’s team.

“The discussions went very well,” said a PBA insider. “The timing is right for the SM Group to join the PBA in 2016-17. Two years ago, the SM Group opened the doors of the MOA Arena to the PBA and the relationship has since been very good. Mr. (Hans) Sy will take up the matter with his brothers and sisters. If it comes to a vote, at least four of the six Sy siblings (Henry Jr., Hans, Teresita, Elizabeth, Herbert, Harley) must agree to approve the proposal.”

The PBA insider said once Hapee and the SM Group join in, it will just be a matter of time before the Ayala and Gokongwei Groups reenter the league. The Ayala Group used to play in the PBA as Shell and Purefoods where it had previously a stake while the Gokongwei Group enjoyed a rich history with CFC, Presto, Tivoli, N-Rich and Great Taste.

“A league of 16 teams would be a dream come true,” continued the insider. “If the PBA is able to get the Ayala and Gokongwei Groups to re-join, overseas expansion will be the next step.” 

The PBA started in 1975 with nine teams, namely, Royal Tru-Orange (the San Miguel Corp. Group), Tanduay, CFC Presto, Crispa, Toyota, U-Tex, Mariwasa, 7-Up and Concepcion Carrier. The membership dwindled to six in 1985 before rebuilding to eight in 1990 to nine in 1999 and to 10 starting in 2000. 

Through the years, the league has welcomed the participation of guest teams like the Philippine national squad, Emtex Brazil and Ramrod Australia in 1977, Nicholas Stoodley and Adidas France in 1980, Nicholas Stoodley-South Korea in 1982 and Northern Cement in 1984-85. The only commercial bank to own a PBA franchise was the Filipinas Manufacturers Bank or Filmanbank which played in 1978 and 1979. Soft drink brands Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, 7-Up, Sarsi and Pop Cola also had teams. With the renewed interest in the PBA, fans are awaiting the return of a bank and a soft drink brand to the league.

This coming season will mark the entry of two expansion franchises, Kia Motors and Blackwater Elite. N-Lex would’ve been another expansion team but opted to acquire the Air 21 franchise, leaving the PBA with an all-time high of 12 teams in its 40th anniversary.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with