PBA: A 40th anniversary controversy
Rick Olivares (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2014 - 3:02pm

When a PBA official informed me before the kickoff of the new season that they were preparing to name an additional 15 players to its “greatest” roster, I first thought of 19th century French author, Jules Renard, who once wrote, “We don’t understand life any better at 40 than at 20; but we know it and admit it.”

Finding my voice, my first verbal reaction was, “But it’s not yet the 50th year.”

It was explained that they “didn’t need to wait for the 50th year” to add to its hallowed hall of hoops heroes. “Oh, okay. Cool,” I nonchalantly agreed.

Back then, I thought it was a brilliant idea. In the light of all that has transpired, was it now rushed?

It was supposed to be a celebration all the way up to the creation of a new league coffee table book. Instead, now there’s controversy. And a heaping helping of it.

And after the backlash on the selections for the national team head coach, it is a massive understatement to say that the people have had enough.

Named as the additional 15 players to comprise the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players are – in democratic alphabetical order – Jimmy Alapag, Marlou Aquino, Mark Caguioa, Jason Castro, Jayjay Helterbrand, Danny Ildefonso, Chito Loyzaga, Eric Menk, Willie Miller, Marc Pingris, Kerby Raymundo, Arwind Santos, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and James Yap.

The committee that deliberated in the proceedings included current PBA Chairman Patrick Gregorio, Vice-Chairman Robert Non, House of Representatives Games and Amusements Chairman Elpidio Barzaga, veteran broadcaster Quinito Henson, PBA Press Corps President Barry Pascua, and former PBA legends Robert Jaworski and Freddie Webb.

This second wave of “greatest players” are mostly from the Fil-Am invasion era with a few more the new millennium.

However, conspicuously missing are – once more in democratic alphabetical order -- Nelson Asaytono, Jeffrey Cariaso, Dennis Espino, Bong Hawkins, Olsen Racela, Danny Seigle, Arnie Tuadles, Manny Victorino and Yoyoy Villamin to name a few deserving folks.

They have the statistics, championships and the achievements to stake their claim to some of the additional 15 seats. Some of the players who made it will no doubt be on that list one day but right now, for some, it is too early.

I believe that the committee should have been comprised of people who are non-partisan, not a part of the league, not identified with any team owners, and furthermore, not even former players as they could have their personal biases and prejudices. Men in the “hall of fame” should not be selecting others. They should welcome the new inductees with open arms.

It is almost always invariable that some names will be left out. We see that every year in All-Star Games or even awardees. We saw that in the last PBA Draft when there were a lot of questionable choices while deserving applicants were left to twist and sweat in their seats as they saw their stock plummet. That is if they were chosen at all. Yet, it seems that with regards to this selection process, the committee did a lot more harm than good.

Personally, I’d love to hear the committee defend their choices on why so and so isn’t in there. I’ll bet you it will sound very much like Jurgen Klinsmann explaining to the American people why Landon Donovan got cut from the United States Men’s National Team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The manner of which Klinsmann did it sounded like he enumerated the traits on why Donovan should have suited up for the World Cup as opposed to working as a color analyst on television.

This also calls to mind the NBA’s own 50 Greatest Players who they announced in 1997 that left out deserving players while including Shaquille O’Neal, who at that point had only played in four seasons. Bill Walton, who played very few quality years as he spent most in injury bay, even made it while players such as Bob McAdoo, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English and Bernard King to name a few who were left out.

I know the local pro league likes to use the NBA as its model but copying a formula for controversy isn’t such a good idea.

That Asi Taulava has gone on record to give up his seat to Asaytono is embarrassing.

As an unwise man once said, “What is done is did.” So I don’t imagine the league will backtrack on this after having made the announcements of who’s in. Everyone will just have to live with these decisions.

Now hopefully, they will learn from this and not make the same mistakes when the league turns 50 in 10 years’ time.


Rick Olivares is a contributing columnist for Philstar.com. His views are purely his own.

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