I LOVE YOU, THIS Game: Very difficult, but very beautiful
Paul Lintag on Mar 16, 2018 06:15 PM
"Very difficult... I Love You, This Game. That's the best thing I could say about the MBA."
The Metropolitan Basketball Association was never perfect to begin with. Well, nothing in life is ever really perfect anyway.
But in the short amount of time it existed, it thrilled not only the fans of Philippine basketball but also those who were lucky, and crazy, enough to be part of the league in itself.
The MBA created tension when it decided to go pro when the Philippines already had a pro league in the PBA.
The MBA pushed the envelope when it decided to actually go for a regional, home-and-away format.
The MBA dared to different when it installed innovative and wacky rules such as the 23-second shot clock and the Blitz 3, where a shot counts as three points if it's made within five seconds after inbounding the ball.
More importantly, the league found out the hard way that it takes more than just love for the game to make something as special as the MBA work.
But for those who spent time with the MBA on a more intimate level, love for the game is enough to keep the memories forever.
Ramon Fernadez, four-time PBA Most Valuable Player and the MBA's first ever Commissioner:
Yung crowd talaga. The response of the crowd. Makikita mo kung sino pinaka boisterous na crowd, the intensity, the support of the community for their teams. That was very inspiring for us.
Community. Napakaganda ng format niya dahil community-based siya, city ang pangalan ng team. Ang following nandoon. That was really the main ingredient na bakit sumikat ng husto ang MBA.
Peter Musngi, "The Voice of ABS-CBN":
We had two OB vans, two coverage teams, in two different places, and these are games back-to-back. Sometimes, the panel or the commentators on both venues actually talked to each other before the turn over happens. But we had one very happy family on the road, and I was so proud of the team then, the coverage team, the panel. Walang nagrereklamo. Kumain, ‘di kumain, ‘di makatulog. We had a lot of fun doing that. A lot of things actually were introduced by the MBA during that time. As you can imagine, the cost was staggering, but we pulled it off. A lot of people are saying that the MBA was just ahead of its time. Had it been delayed by two years, the story would have been different.
Bittersweet. Because for me, personally, it was my introduction to sports. The reason why I think I was appointed in the sports division was because we learned so much from the MBA and when we got the UAAP, and by the way it was the UAAP who approached chairman Gabby Lopez but it was Mr. Rolly Cruz and I who, well, brought them in officially despite the threat of a suit and everything else, the reason why we got the UAAP was precisely because we wanted for the UAAP to succeed because it might lengthen the life of the MBA.
There was an overlap between the MBA and the UAAP with the ABS-CBN. As it turns out, the UAAP became a much bigger success than the MBA. Why? Because it was a mature league already. It was college, university, pero they’re coming from already so many years. It was only a matter of translating the fandom, the students’ passion, the alumni’s commitment to their schools, into something that would be enjoyed on air also. That’s what ABS-CBN Sports was able to do. But all the things and lessons we learned from the MBA were applied to the UAAP, the NCAA and so many projects. Did we fail? No, I don’t think so. It’s something that we learned painful lessons from, but it certainly paved the way towards the success of the ensuing projects for ABS-CBN Sports.
Chito Victolero, former guard for the San Juan Knights and current head coach for Magnolia in the PBA:
Masaya. I think isa yun sa part ng career ko na di ko malilimutan, yung MBA, because of the camaraderie nung samahan namin ng San Juan. Para kaming magkakapatid before. Sobrang saya nung grupo na yun.
I think yung talent naman nandun, but ‘yung important thing doon yung bonding ng players with the coaching staff, with the management, and even the support staff, so sobrang close talaga. Even now, meron pa kaming communications sa mga players and even the management. Sometimes we go out, like kami minsan nina Randy Alcantara, nina Gherome Ejercito. Nagkikita-kita kami. Iba yung nabuo naming bonding doon.
Marc Pingris, former forward for the Cebu Gems and current Magnolia forward in the PBA:
It’s a good experience naman sa akin, kasi mas nahasa ako sa MBA. Pero mas nakakapagod talaga sa MBA kasi grabe yung practice doon eh, hindi petik-petiks lang. Doon kasi talaga takbuhan. Kung di ka kondisyon, talagang kakainin ka ng buhay ng binabantayan mo so kailangan kondisyon ka lagi.
Masaya kasi nagkakaroon ka ng maraming kaibigan sa iba’t ibang lugar. And then nae-experience mo rin yung sarap ng food sa Bacolod, sa Cebu. Yun nga lang nakakapagod nga lang talaga. Pero yun, na-experience ko ‘yung kapag walang practice nakakapasyal ka. Yun yung maganda sa MBA.
Dondon Hontiveros, former guard for the Cebu Gems, PBA Champion, and current Alab Pilipinas guard:
Yung pinakamaganda para sa akin kasi na-excite ako na bibisita kami ng Davao, malalaman mo kung ano yung mga masasarap na pagkain, yun especially sa Negros, we go to Bacolod. Yung batchoy, yung inasal. Of course sa Cebu makikita rin nila yung magagandang puntahan. Involved yung community, nap-promote yung tourism, especially sa amin sa Cebu. To travel around the country for two years, ibang experience. Magandang experience para sa akin.
Iba yung support na natatanggap mo eh. There was even a time na kung tumakbo kaming councilor sa city baka manalo pa kami eh, kasi ganun talaga ka-involved. Kunwari, maganda laro naman, especially kapag kalaban namin yung Negros or Manila, tapos malalaman namin pagdating namin nasa front page kami ng mga local newspapers. Nakikita at nakikilala talaga kami. And yun nga, to go to the malls, after practice, parang feeling namin artista kami. In a way na-appreciate namin yun and yung mga fans talaga na-appreciate rin naming yung support nila.
Rafi Reavis, former center for the San Juan Knights. Still plays for Magnolia in the PBA and is the winningest active player, with 10 championships:
The PBA is primarily a commercial league. Although the MBA was also a commercial league, it was provincial. You have a home team. That’s what made it a little more exciting than the PBA because the cities could get behind their respective teams and rally them. It was a lot different going into someone else’s home court or going to someone else’s backyard trying to steal their food. It was very exciting. It was a totally different atmosphere. It was pretty fun.
It was fun. It was exciting because anytime you change the rules a bit and throw a little kink in the game, the fans and the players – you look forward to see if you could achieve the Blitz 3 or see if you can make the Free 3. It was just an exciting part of the game, the fans and the players looked forward. It’s always exciting to change some things around the game.
Alex Compton, former guard for the Manila Metrostars and current head coach for Alaska in the PBA:
"[The MBA] started, really, my whole journey in the Philippines where I've now been for 20 years, married to a Filipina, and have Filipino children. I'm so blessed by the league and I really felt like God had a plan. Ang alam ko, I was the only guy that was allowed to play on the basis of being born in the Philippines, both my parents were American. They let me play and halfway through the first year, they said no more. Hindi na pwedeng ganun, but ikaw, pwede ka mag-stay.
Blessing yun and now it's become home so I'm really grateful to the MBA.
Ramon Tuason, CEO of MetroBall, Inc., the mother company of the Metropolitan Basketball Association:
Of course the opening... I teared up. A lot of people did that. The President of the Philippines was there, all 12 team owners. It was a full stadium, we had it air-conditioned just for the inaugural game. That was very memorable. One of the other sights that I was that was very uplifting was a banner in Batangas and ABS-CBN used to bring it up and keep showing in their highlights, it was a banner that said 'I Love You, This Game,' and that came after the NBA in the States, they had 'I Love This Game,' but syempre dahil in our own language, they made a mistake. But that was very beautiful for me.
Very difficult... I Love You, This Game. That's the best thing I could say about the MBA.
*I Love You, This Game is a series celebrating the Metropolitan Basketball Association's 20th anniversary. Thank you, for tuning in!
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 5: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: The MBA vs. the PBA
READ PART 6: I LOVE YOU, THIS GAME: More money, more problems
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