I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The MBA vs. the PBA

Paul Lintag on Mar 13, 2018 01:35 PM
I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The MBA vs. the PBA
With the Metropolitan Basketball Association, the old and mighty PBA finally had a worthy rival. That's what it seemed like and that's what many people thought. But is it that actually true?

What is it about sports leagues and why can't two actually exist at the same time in the same territory?

The National Basketball Association has no real competition in the United States. The National Football League? Powerhouse.

And while the World Wrestling Entertainment is not exactly a sports league, it's main competition is on the other side of the world. You can argue that the New Japan Pro Wrestling is not even competing with WWE.

In the Philippines, there's the PBA. We can't really count the Asean Basketball League as a rival to the PBA can we?

The PBA stands alone.

20 years ago though, that wasn't the case.

With the Metropolitan Basketball Association, the  old and mighty PBA finally had a worthy rival.

That's what it seemed like and that's what many people thought.

But is that actually true?

 


THE GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING

While it's understandable, due to a lot of reasons, that people thought that the MBA was going after the PBA, that was never the case.

The people behind the MBA never thought about competing in the PBA. In fact, they wanted to help them.

Oh yes.

"We did not want to rival the PBA," Ramon Tuason, CEO of MetroBall, Inc., the mother company of the MBA, told ABS-CBN Sports.

"As a matter of fact, before we even started, I went to Jun Bernardino, who was [PBA] Commissioner, and I asked him and I said I have a system and it will reduce your salaries by over 50 percent in the first three years," he added.

Wait, what?

 

THE LITTLE BROTHER

With the MBA taking on a regional format, Tuason thought that his league could serve as the PBA's developmental territory.

The MBA will scoop up players from the farthest of areas, let them hone their skills in the MBA, and when they're ready, allow them to move on to the PBA.

"So in other words we would be like the draft, they would have to come to us, play for two years and can only then move to the PBA. So we would be getting regional players, develop them into our type of play, which is more rough, faster, stronger, and they would be then ripe for the picking of PBA teams through a draft," Tuason said.

"It's going to be like in the States, they had the ABA before, which merged with the NBA, but it was the lower league, developing players for the NBA," he added.

The idea seemed so simple and good-natured. However, the PBA didn't bite it.

And so the supposed little brother decided to come after the big bro. For real this time.

"They were very confused with what we wanted to do, they thought we were going after them. So when they declined us, we decided let's go full blast and turn professional," Tuason said.

"Because our first thing was amateur muna, we would be developing the players and then moving them up as professionals. That's how the PBA would be able to save money," he added.

"[The MBA] was not created to compete directly with the PBA."

 


IN THE SERVICE OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE

While ABS-CBN failed to strike a deal with the PBA, the MBA was never intended to be the vehicle that The Company would use for revenge.

People can think otherwise but PBA vs. MBA was never the case.

"We did not," Peter Musngi said when asked if ABS-CBN saw the MBA as a possible competitor for the PBA.

"The superstar players were with the PBA so what we wanted to have then was a second-tier league that can be a developmental league but at the same time, be able to avail of the services of the new college graduates, the stars of college basketball, and at the same time discover the talents in the far-flung areas who otherwise would not even be visible to the PBA."

"It’s grassroots, but at the same time it’s also giving more opportunities for the college kids, the new graduates, to further their career in basketball. We were very excited with the idea and since ABS-CBN was practically present in all the regions in the country, it was a natural decision to say yeah, in the service of the Filipino, here’s something to cheer about, here’s something to entertain you," he added.

 

LONG-TERM POWER

The MBA was never intended to be a rival to the PBA.

However, in time, the MBA could have definitely challenged the PBA.

Ramon Fernandez, the four-time PBA MVP who became the first MBA Commissioner, certainly thinks that way. He saw that the MBA could one day give the PBA a worthy fight.

"Definitely," Fernandez said with hesitation when asked if he saw the MBA as a potential rival to the PBA.

"That's why I said we should look at this league in the long term. Look at this league 10-15 years from now, wag this year lang. There should have been a longer vision, dahan-dahan. Because nakaka-motivate sa kabataan na maglaro ng basketball para makasama sa liga na to. Meron nang choice, hindi lang puro PBA. There was another league growing," he added.

Unfortunately Fernandez only lasted for about two seasons as a Commissioner and the MBA didn't last 10-15 years. Not even close.

What is it about sports leagues and why can't two actually exist at the same time in the same territory?

After directly competing with one another, the American Football Leaue and the National Football League merged, retaining the NFL name.

At one point, WCW was beating the WWE in the Monday Night Wars. The WWE ended up purchasing WCW.

The American Basketball Association, which was a lot like the MBA in many ways, ended up merging with the NBA, allowing the NBA to rise as the most powerful basketball league in the world.

In the Philippines, no such merger happened.

The PBA is still good on its own after 43 seasons and the MBA died a slow death.

A slow death that could have been prevented... (to be continued)

 

*I Love You, This Game is a series celebrating the Metropolitan Basketball Association's 20th anniversary. Stay tuned for more!

READ PART 1: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The logo that started a basketball revolution

READ PART 2: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The Passion of the Nation

READ PART 3: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: Trouble from Lakerland

READ PART 4: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: Death threats and 5-peso coins, the MBA was crazy

 


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Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8

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