The PBA's 44 Most Memorable Moments

ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 16, 2019 02:03 PM
The PBA's 44 Most Memorable Moments
Do your remember?
By Gerry Plaza and Paul Lintag

This month, the PBA marks its 44th anniversary with all the nostalgia of how the league evolved from being Asia’s first play for pay basketball league to how it really became an important part of our lives.

As such, we list 44 of the most talked about, fascinating, shocking, stirring, and even appalling moments in the past 44 years of the PBA that have been etched on our minds.

1. The birth of the PBA

It was 1975. Where in the world can you find an NBA-like league outside of the US? It was only found in the Philippines, and whoa was it awesome!

Nine ballclubs bolted the dominant league back then, the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) banded together and formed the first pro basketball tourney in the region, the Philippine Basketball Association.

Patterned after the NBA, the PBA was seen to attract a wider following and further increase the popularity of the sport. It actually achieved more than that.


2. Toyota Comets bag first PBA championship

When the PBA began hostilities, the fabled Crispa-Toyota rivalry went on from their MICAA days and it seemed Toyota had the superb offensive weaponry to draw first blood.

In the 1975 PBA Open Conference best-of-five title series with the Comets leading 2-1 over the Redmanizers, Toyota showed their outstanding arsenal behind Ompong Segura’s marksmanship, Robert Jaworski’s court leadership, and import Byron “Snake” Jones’ dominance inside the paint.

They handily beat Crispa to a pulp, 117-94 in Game 4 to win the first PBA championship before 30,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum.


3. Crispa 1976 Grand Slam

Reeling off from two consecutive finals losses to rivals Toyota in the inaugural season, Crispa would bounce back with four straight titles from 1975 to 1976, with a dramatic comeback win in the All-Philippine championship in the latter year.

Facing Toyota for the sixth time in the PBA finals, Crispa was trailing the series 0-2. The Redmanizers would then win the next three games in the Finals, with gunner Atoy Co leading the Crispa surge in the sudden death with 39 points and triumph, 110-92, to bag the first PBA Grand Slam.

4. Adornado is first back-to-back MVP

The country’s premier deadshot, William “Bogs” Adornado, had been the top scorer for the Crispa Redmanizers from the MICAA days until the transition to the PBA.

While his offensive might did not outgun Toyota’s own heavy artillery, Adornado still bagged the first Most Valuable Player award on the heels of Crispa’s first PBA championship in the 1975 All-Philippine Conference.

Leading Crispa thereafter in scoring, Adornado became the main factor behind Crispa’s championship streak in the next three conferences, copping its first Grand Slam and making the prized Bicolano shooter the PBA’s first back-to-back MVP in 1976.

5. Crispa, Toyota players detained

After players from Crispa and Toyota figured in that infamous post-game melee in the 1977 First Conference opening match, police authorities detained all the erring players for “creating alarm and disturbing the peace” that led to spectators also figuring in the fisticuffs and getting injured.

The players, including Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Ompong Segura and Ramon Fernandez of Toyota, Philip Cezar, Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben and Freddie Hubalde of Crispa, were all hauled into jail cells in Fort Bonifacio for what the state saw was explicit violent wrongdoing that set a terrible example to the people, given that they were popular figures. It was an era when even a slight misdemeanor, such as violating a curfew, would lead to jail time.

As such, these players learned the seriousness of Martial Law the hard way. They were released the next day.

6. U-Tex breaks Crispa-Toyota “duopoly”

The U-Tex Wranglers were seen as the only team that offered the most formidable opposition to the league’s dominant and most popular teams, Crispa and Toyota.

And in 1978, they fulfilled their promise as they became the first team to break the championship “duopoly” of the rival teams and bagged the Open Conference title. Led by reliables Lim Eng Beng, Rudolf Kutch and Jimmy Noblezada, and reinforced by Glenn McDonald, a member of the 1976 NBA champs Boston Celtics, and Byron “Snake” Jones, who was the import of the champion Toyota Comets squad in 1975, U-Tex swept Crispa, 3-0 to take the crown.

7. Atoy Co reaches 5,000 points

The “Fortune Cookie” read that 1979 was a lucky year for Fortunato “Atoy” Co, the Crispa hotshot known for ending a fastbreak with a running long-distance jumper.

While he was a hands-down MVP for the year, registering scoring averages of over 30 points a game, Atoy’s year became more historic because he was the first player to reach the 5,000 point milestone in that season—an impressive feat, considering the 3-point shot was non-existent at that time. After a 38-point game against Tanduay that year, Atoy brought home that enormous plaque enshrining that milestone.

8. Most unforgettable last 16 seconds in PBA history

For PBA classic aficionados, this championship game was truly the most memorable. With titans Toyota against underdogs U-Tex going into a winner-take-all Game 5 of the 1980 PBA Open Conference Finals, and the Tamaraws leading 94-90, 16 seconds to go, who would even imagine them squandering that lead at so short a time?

Well, U-Tex made it happen and did the impossible. Seemingly overconfident, the Tamaraws left Wrangler import Aaron James unmolested in a drive to cut the lead to two, 94-92, with 11 ticks left.

After Toyota called a timeout and inbounded, the Wranglers went on a tight press, and after anticipating a pass, the other U-Tex import Glenn McDonald intercepted the ball, made the dash to the hoop and was fouled by Francis Arnaiz, two seconds left. He sank the two free throws amid the jeers of the predominantly Toyota crowd, forcing the title match into overtime.

While it was a close match in the extra period, prized acquisition Bogs Adornado’s difficult long-distance conversion over a minute to go became the decider, as both teams failed to score as time expired, with U-Tex winning the 1980 Open Conference crown, 99-98, its second under coach Tommy Manotoc.


9. Black Superman and Crispa’s 1983 Grand Slam

It was a gigantic build up and was seen as the team’s swan song. After Tommy Manotoc’s impressive mentorship that brought titles to U-Tex and San Miguel Beer, he was now hired as Crispa coach to bring his magic to the winningest PBA team in the 1983 season.

They would easily conquer the All-Filipino via a sweep of Gilbey’s Gin. But what made people astounded, Crispanatics or not, was its import in the Reinforced Conference—the high-leaping and powerful Black Superman, Billy Ray Bates, who played for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA.

With his monster dunks and flamboyant on-court presence, Bates was an import the country never seen before as he led the Crispa onslaught with a near sweep of the eliminations before facing Great Taste in the Finals. In their best-of-five, the Ricky Brown-Bogs Adornado-Norman Black Coffee Maker troika, and coached by ex-Crispa coach Baby Dalupan, almost ended the Bates show, but the Redmanizers still prevailed, 3-2, for its second crown in the season.

And in the final Open Conference, Bates teamed up with ex-New York Knick Larry Demic to run roughshod over the competition and again faced Great Taste in the Finals and swept them to take its second Grand Slam.

10. Toyota and Crispa disbandment

An end of an era. The PBA was in “crisis mode” by the end of 1983 to 1984 as two of its biggest crowd drawers in its games bade goodbye to the league. After the end of the 1983 season, Toyota’s franchise was sold to the Lucio Tan-owned Asia Brewery, which fielded a team bearing its Beer Hausen brand.

Then in 1984, a year after achieving its second Grand Slam, the P. Floro and Sons Group decided it best to let go of the Redmanizers team and have the Ayala-owned Formula Shell take over their PBA franchise. While the league was never the same after the teams’ disbandment, it started a new exciting era for the PBA.

11. Robert Jaworski and the birth of “never-say-die” Ginebra

As the Crispa and Toyota players went their separate ways and joined different teams, it was the transfer of Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz to the Gilbey’s Gin team, owned and managed by Honeyboy Palanca of La Tondena, that caught everyone’s attention.

From a perennial cellar-dweller to a semis contender by the early 1980s, Gilbey’s Gin will make an immense transformation and carry the more “pang-masa” brand Ginebra San Miguel to attract hordes of followers.

The presence of Jaworski did help as his attitude of never say die was passed on to its rag tag bunch, whom he mentored and honed as his own and played in dramatic fashion with a familiar, relatable battlecry among the everyman.

A 1985 match against the Ron Jacobs-led Northern Consolidated that boasted of the country’s best individual players from the amateur ranks, plus talent naturalized American players, showed how much Jaworski would embody the “never say die” spirit.

Inadvertently elbowed by NCC’s Jeff Moore, Jaworski suffered a deep cut on the lip and was rushed to a nearby hospital for an emergency procedure. After his lip was stitched to stop the bleeding, the most dramatic thing transpired. Jaworski went back to the arena with a bandaged lip and returned to the game as if nothing happened and continued the fight.

Ginebra would then eke out a come-from-behind win, inspiring those who witnessed Jaworski’s deed as an inspiration to never say die in any fight against adversity.

12.    Michael Hackett scores 103 points

Ginebra’s rise was phenomenal and it would not take long before the team would become title contenders, thanks to Robert Jaworski’s grit and passion in leading the team as playing coach to achieve the glory it deserves. Part of that incredible run was its beloved, reliable, and sensational import Michael Hackett.

Leaving players and spectators awestruck, Hackett went on a marvelous scoring binge late 1985 in a game against the Great Taste Coffee Makers.

With his rebounding might and outstanding all-around play, Hackett would convert basket after basket in this incredible offensive show. And before everyone knew it, Hackett even eclipsed the legendary record of NBA great Wilt Chamberlain, to end up with 103 markers.

13. Ginebra wins first title

Ginebra now entered the climax of its journey in the 1986 Open Conference, with the inclusion of the fantastic Billy Ray Bates in its lineup together with Michael Hackett, and its season prized recruits Dondon Ampalayo, Chito Loyzaga, Dante Gonzalgo, Joey Loyzaga, and Leo Isaac further strengthening the current lineup led by playing coach Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz.

But the best thing that happened was that a formidable “sixth man” joined in every game they played—its ever-growing legion of fans, thanks to the team mindset’s relatability and inspiration to the masses—hence the monicker, Barangay Ginebra.

They were truly unstoppable, and this eventually led to a Finals duel against the perceived rival, Manila Beer, which had ex-Crispa greats Abet Guidaben and Atoy Co plus a prolific scorer in import Michael Young in its roster.

With its deep bench and immense fan support, Ginebra San Miguel copped its first-ever title since the La Tondena franchise entered the league in 1979.

14. Fernandez is first four-time MVP

Ramon Fernandez exuded class and wizardry in the court that leaves opponents biting the dust. He is exceptional in any position—he can bring the ball down the court an direct plays like a point guard, have great looks and drop bombs far away like a shooting guard or small forward, barrel his way in like a power forward, and of course dominate the boards and own the paint like a center.

He is truly one of the best Filipinos who played the sport, and quite deservingly won the PBA MVP a number of times. The first playing for Toyota in 1982, then as the prized scoring leader in Beer Hausen in 1984, and the third in 1986 as a vital cog in powerhouse, multi-titled Tanduay.

He would then break the record for the most number of MVP awards he shared with Bogs Adornado in 1988, after an embarrassing exit from upstart Purefoods, as part of dynasty-seeking San Miguel Beermen.

15. Jaworski-Fernandez final play in 1989 All-Star Game

The start of a yearly tradition of All Star Games began and what could best bring about this annual exhibition of togetherness and camaraderie that the seeming reconciliation of two PBA greats, Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez spurred by that unforgettable game-winning final play for the Veterans team.

Jojo Lastimosa of the Rookie-Sophomore squad scored a triple that tied the game at 130-all, with four seconds left. After the Veterans coach Baby Dalupan called a timeout, the inbounding Jaworski instinctively spotted a free Fernandez, who then drove from the left flank and took a difficult under the basket, reverse lay-up amid the outstretched arms of Alvin Patrimonio and Benjie Paras, and scored the buzzer beater for the Veterans.

Jaworski and Fernandez, who were at odds since the disbandment of Toyota, finally buried the hatchet with a hearty handshake after the game.

16. San Miguel 1989 Grand Slam

After winning two titles in the 1988 season, San Miguel Beer was indeed building a dynasty of sorts in the PBA, more so with the blockbuster trade at the end of the year dealing Abet Guidaben with former Purefoods playing coach Ramon Fernandez, who joined the Hector Calma and Samboy Lim-powered Beermen in the third conference.

By the 1989 season, San Miguel Beer was virtually unbeatable. And this showed in the Open Conference, wherein they completed a 10-game sweep of the elimination round with import Michael Phelps, and entered the Finals in a breeze. The Beermen would lose a game, however to the Ronnie Magsanoc and Benjie Paras-led Formula Shell, but still overwhelm the Zoom Masters in the Best of Seven series, 4-1.

In the All-Filipino conference, a dream match occurred between the Beermen and the Purefoods Hotdogs, both of which had equally outstanding rosters, and notably a “grudge match” between ex-Beerman Guidaben and former Hotdog Fernandez. It ended with San Miguel winning the series, 4-2, notching their second title for the season, and their first All-Filipino crown.

And what became their last hurdle to achieving its first Grand Slam, the Beermen faced the popular Anejo Rhum 65 in Reinforced Conference finals with import Ennis Whatley and the returning Ricardo Brown for added firepower. While coach Robert Jaworski’s gritty 65ers managed to score a win in Game 3, the Beermen would outgun and outmaneuver Anejo in all aspects, and reach their dream of winning its first-ever Grand Slam, 4-1, in Game 5.


17.  Benjie Paras wins Rookie of the Year and MVP

Benjie Paras has been known as the precious powerful center any team would dream of having. With his immense size, winning attitude, and incredible talent, he would become the merciless giant behind many San Beda high school championships.

He then led his college alma mater UP Fighting Maroons to a long-awaited UAAP championship in 1986, before beefing up the Phillips Sardines squad to also clinch a PABL title in 1988. And when the draft came in 1989, who else would Formula Shell pick as first overall than Paras?

In the 1989 Season, Paras indeed lived to expectations and showed he can measure up with old-timers in terms of scoring, rebounding, shot-blocking, and showed everyone he didn’t play like a rookie, but like a seasoned, powerful center.

Coined with the nickname “The Tower of Power,” Paras would lead Shell to a finals appearance against the Grand Slam-seeking San Miguel Beermen in the Open Conference, alongside import Bobby Parks and longtime court buddy Ronnie Magsanoc.

He would then lead the league in scoring and rebounding among locals, denying Ramon Fernandez his 5th MVP by accomplishing the first and only feat of being both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in one season.


18. Mr Excitement scores 71 points

Known for his high-flying exploits and dunking prowess, Paul Alvarez slammed his way into the record books on April 26, 1990.

The man known as "Mr. Excitement" scored a then-record 71 points, the most for a local player, in Alaska's 169-138 rout of Shell.

What's even more amazing was that Alvarez established the feat without converting a single attempt from beyond the three-point line as the former San Sebastian Stag made 31 out of 38 attempts from two-point range or an eye-popping 81.6 percent while only sinking nine free throws.

19.    PBA Dream Team to Asian Games

With the burgeoning shift to Open Basketball in international competitions, the Philippines, which embarrassingly lost to Malaysia in the 1989 SEA Games, looked at sending PBA players to major international tournaments.

With the 1990 Beijing Asian Games fast approaching, the Basketball Association of the Philippines would partner with the PBA in sending top PBA players to the quadrennial meet—forming what was called the PBA “Dream Team”.

This Philippine Dream Team was composed of the nucleus of the Grand Slam San Miguel Beermen—Hector Calma, Samboy Lim, Yves Dignadice, and Ramon Fernandez—together with Anejo Rhum 65ers Chito Loyzaga, Dante Gonzalgo and the late Rey Cuenco, Formula Shell’s Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc, Allan Caidic and Zaldy Realubit of Presto Tivoli, and Alvin Patrimonio of Purefoods Hotdogs. They were coached by Anejo’s Robert Jaworski, who was assisted by coach Norman Black of San Miguel Beer.

And despite just two months of preparations, they won over Asian medal favorites Japan twice, and beating other notable Asian countries such as North Korea and the United Arab Emirates, before facing giant China in the Gold Medal match. While they bowed to China, 76-90, the Philippines had already revived a lofty stature in Asian basketball, landing a respectable silver—its highest since the country won four straight Gold Medals from 1951 to 1962.


20. Caidic scores 79 points, 17 triples

Although it was a no-bearing game, this Presto-Ginebra match became indeed one of the most unforgettable and remarkable games—not because of what either team achieved during the match but because of an unbelievable scoring record a certain player, the country’s premiere cage marksman, had set.

Allan Caidic wasn’t supposed to play at all, given that his wife Milotte had been in labor at a nearby hospital. After her doctors informed him it would take more time before his wife will finally give birth, Caidic chose not to wait in the corner. He decided to suit up that night and the rest was history.

Caidic bombarded the arena with successive field goals, highlighted by his incredible precision from beyond the arc—converting a total of 17 three-pointers and amassing an unbelievable total of 79 points, the highest individual score by any local in PBA history. And the blessings didn’t stop there as he was greeted by his newborn after the game in the hospital.


21.   The Destroyer’s miracle shot

In what is considered one of the most improbable miracle shots in basketball history, the feared enforcer Rudy Distrito made it when his team Ginebra needed such heroism the most, the last seconds of a deciding Game 7 of the 1991 PBA First Conference held at the ULTRA in Pasig City.

With the score tied at 102-all, five seconds left, the Destroyer shook off his defender Ronnie Magsanoc and dashed towards the shaded lane, and received a sharp inbound pass from playing coach Robert Jaworski.

Distrito then surged towards the basket against the double-teaming Benjie Paras and Jojo Martin. And, as he drove, Distrito broke his stride leaving his defenders in disarray and leaped for a fadeaway jumper.

It swooshed, sending the pro-Ginebra in jubilation, with Distrito screaming in joy and his coach hugging him tight for his incredible play. And after import Jervis Cole swatted a last-second attempt by Magsanoc, Ginebra’s fourth title became official and Distrito never forgotten as the hero who made it happen.

22.   Tony Harris sets 105-point scoring record

When Michael Hackett did the unthinkable of scoring 103 points in a game, people thought no one could repeat that feat.

Until a hurricane came along.

Tony Harris, the unbelievable Swift import known for his whirlwind offensive attacks that leave the opposing team in shambles, beat Hackett’s record by a basket, scoring 105 points in a game against Ginebra in an out-of-town game in Iloilo City on October 10, 1992. This has since become the PBA single game scoring record ever since.

Hurricane Harris reached this milestone despite Ginebra’s bone-crushing defense and hurtful jeers from the crowd, leading the Mighty Meaties’ 150-147 win.

23.    Alaska Grand Slam

Since its expansion ballclub in 1986, Alaska had its biggest buildup from 1989 to 1993 under Coach Tim Cone. From the drafting of Mr. Excitement Paul Alvarez in 1989, the transfer of Jojo Lastimosa from Purefoods in 1991, and the entry of the Flying A Johnny Abarrientos, the promise of the Milkmen to have its own dynastic run was strong and apparent.

Their first championship in the 1991 All-Filipino, and subsequent titles in the 1994 and 1995 Governor’s Cup indicated their superb arsenal, employing Tex Winter’s triangle offense in their impressive run.

The Milkmen simply continued their winning ways in 1996—first in the All-Filipino Cup, wherein they upended the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs, 4-1, for their first-ever back-to-back championship. In the Commissioner’s Cup, the Milkmen again stamped its class in the league by entering the Finals, this time backed by their effective, reliable resident import Sean Chambers, replacing a taller Derrick Hamilton, who was banned for marijuana use, against surprise finalist Formula Shell. In the best of seven finals, Alaska overcame the odds of trailing 1-2 and eventually bagged the crown in seven games.

And in the Governors' Cup, which they had since topped for two years in a row, the Milkmen were impregnable as they zoomed with a streak of 13 wins since the eliminations until Game 3 of the Finals. But their finals opponent Ginebra brought in a new import, Derrick Rucker, to hopefully turn the tide and they did, ending the streak with Rucker’s game winner that sent the crowd into a frenzy, 97-96.

But it was all for naught, as the 3-1 series proved insurmountable and Alaska, behind the heroics of Abarrientos, won Game 5, taking home the crown and annexing the PBA’s fourth Grand Slam.

24. Bal David’s buzzer beaters

If there’s a master of game winners in the league, it should be this lean, diminutive guard out of the UAAP grand slam winners UST Golden Tigers. Bal David, or fondly called the Flash because of his speed and agility that allows him to sneak past burly defenders and convert on midrange jumpers or lane incursions.

David made two memorable game winning shots in his career. The first was in the 1997 All-Filipino in a semifinal knockout game against San Miguel Beer. With the Beermen ahead by one 91-90, in the dying seconds, David streaked and heaved a floater near mid-court that went in as time expired, making the whole Gordon’s Gin bench and the crowd erupt in jubilation with a 93-91 win.

The other unforgettable buzzer beater was in the 1999 All-Filipino when Barangay Ginebra faced the Mobilie Phone Pals in the quarterfinals. With Mobiline leading 81-80, two seconds to go, David outsprinted defender Jeffrey Cariaso towards an inbounding Allan Caidic, who immediately passed the ball to him. He further outhustled Cariaso in the daredevil drive with a spin move, burying that buzzer beater that sent the Barangay Ginebra bench and their faithful into maddening celebration.

The 8th place Kings advanced to the semifinals with this stunning upset of the All Filipino Cup’s number one team.

25. PBA Centennial Team

After the first PBA Dream Team copped the silver in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, the next all-pro squad in the subsequent 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games went home empty handed, after losing to Japan in the Bronze Medal match.

Hungrier than ever to notch that elusive Asian Games basketball gold, the PBA again fielded another team to represent the Philippines in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, called the Centennial Team, which coincided with the country’s 100-year celebration of Philippine independence.

They were comprised of Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio, Marlou Aquino, Johnny Abarrientos, Kenneth Duremdes, Jojo Lastimosa, Andy Seigle, Dennis Espino, Jun Limpot, Vergel Meneses, EJ Feihl, and Olsen Racela.

Under illustrious coach Tim Cone, the Centennial Team prepared well for the Games, as they competed in several tune-up matches and leagues, here and abroad. This included the 1998 William Jones Cup, which they won, and a scrimmages against US NCAA Division I schools, one of which ended in that infamous brawl.

When the Bangkok Games started, the Centennials were in a four-win romp before succumbing to South Korea’s patented long-distance marksmanship beyond the arc, arranging an early semifinals face-off with China.

The Centennials would again bow to China in the semifinals game, relegating them to a fight for the Bronze against Kazakhstan. They did not lose their composure and held off the gritty Kazakhs to win the Asian Games Bronze, the last time the country won a basketball medal in the quadrennial meet.


26. PBA celebrates silver anniversary with 25 Greatest Players

There was no Y2K scare for the PBA as the league celebrated a monumental 25 years at the turn of the millenium.

To mark the historic event the PBA named its 25 Greatest Players from 1975 up to that point in time. The list included legends like Ramon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Johnny Abarrientos, and Robert Jaworski.

15 years later, the PBA added players like James Yap, Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, and Danny Ildefonso to make a list of the 40 Greatest. June Mar Fajardo should be a first choice when the PBA inevitably updates the list anew for a Golden anniversary.

27. 500 for the Captain

In the 2001 season, Alvin Patrimonio became the first PBA player ever to play in 500 straight games.

The Purefoods legend and four-time league MVP had an incredible Iron Man run and played 596 straight games, a record that stood for almost two decades. Just recently, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio broke the record and his 597th straight outing came against Magnolia, with Patrimonio on the other side of the court.


28. All-Star throwback with Crispa and Toyota

In 2003, the league’s greatest rivalry returned for a one shot as Crispa and Toyota played in a reunion game at the Big Dome.

Legends like Philip Cezar, Atoy Co, Bogs Adornado, Freddie Hubalde, Chito Loyzaga, Ramon Fernandez, and Robert Jaworski all played. Toyota won a close one, 65-61.

29. Fiesta Time

For the 2004-2005 season, the PBA moved away from a traditional three-conference format and instead introducved a more compact two-conference setting.

The Philippine Cup stayed of course but the Commissioner’s Cup and the Governors’ Cup were replaced by the Fiesta Conference. Ginebra won the very first Fiesta Conference, transitional tournament in 2004 and San Miguel won the second Fiesta Conference, which was an official part of the 2004-2005 season.

The Fiesta Conference stayed until the 2010 season as the PBA returned to a three-conference format in 2011. No team swept the season when the PBA played only two conferences.

30. Enter Smart-Gilas Pilipinas

In 2009, the PBA’s involvement with the Gilas program officially started. While there as an all-pro national team that competed in the 2009 FIBA-Asia Championships, there was an all-amateur team coached by Rajko Toroman that was being groomed to take over.

In the middle of the Philippine Cup Finals, Smart-Gilas played two exhibition games, settling for a draw with Burger King and losing to Rain or Shine. The following season, Smart Gilas competed in the Philippine Cup but finished with a dismal 3-5 record.

The national team’s game didn’t reflect in the final standings. In the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup, Smart Gilas played the tournament as an actual team, replacing Barako Bull who took a leave of absence. Gilas started the conference with a 5-0 run and took the no. 2 seed in the playoffs behind eventual champion TNT. The national team lost in the semis to Brgy. Ginebra.

31. Ultimate All-Star Weekend

In 2011, the PBA hosted an incredible list of NBA All-Stars for the ultimate All-Star weekend.

With the NBA in the middle of a lockout, household names like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and then NBA MVP Derrick Rose all suited up together to take on the PBA All-Stars and Smart-Gilas Pilipinas.

The NBA players naturally won but they were forced to take things seriously against Gilas, with Kobe leading all scorers in a 98-89 win.

32. Bowles makes the most pressure-packed free throws in PBA Finals history

In 2012, Talk ‘N Text was about to win back-to-back Commissioner’s Cup titles and have a second shot at a Grand Slam.

The Tropang Texters lead the B-MEG Llamados by two late in Game 7. B-MEG has the ball and after a scramble on offense, the ball ultimately finds Denzel Bowles down low for a game-tying basket.

He missed.

TNT is halfway through being proclamated as champion again but there was a whistle for a foul. Bowles heads to the line for two shots with 1.2 seconds to go. Down two, he makes both and B-MEG ends up winning the title in overtime.

33. Talk ‘N Text becomes Perpetual Champion

TNT likes making history at the expense of Rain or Shine. In 2013, the Tropang Texters became the first Perpetual Champions in PBA hisoory after winning three straight All-Filipino titles, sweeping the Elasto Painters in the Finals.

The year before, TNT became the first team to defend the Philippine Cup since 1985. San Miguel would later match and surpass the feat but TNT was the first to do it.

34. San Mig Grand Slam (2014)

The PBA has a three-conference format for one simple reason: see if one team can win all three in one season.

The Purefoods franchise, then under the name of San Mig Coffee, did just that with a little extra in 2014. The Coffee Mixers won four straight titles, starting with the 2013 Governors’ Cup all the way to the 2014 Governors’ Cup to complete the league’s 5th Grand Slam ever.

It was head coach Tim Cone’s second Grand Slam too. The greatest head coach in PBA history was responsible for the last the Triple Crowns in the league.

35. TNT goes extra in decisive Game 7  

Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine engaged in a pretty historic Finals series in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

In Game 2 of said series, Jayson Castro scored 44 and set a PBA Finals record with nine triples.

Five games later in Game 7, both teams fought on a historic double-overtime contest that saw the Tropang Texters take the title after a two-point win. It was the first Game 7 in PBA Finals in history to go in double overtime.

36.  San Miguel “Beeracle” run in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals

The defending champion Beermen were at the mercy of the Alaska Aces, the team they beat for the title in seven games just a year prior.

San Miguel was down 0-3 and then an incredible thing happened. The Beermen won one to stay alive. And then they won two, and then three. After a fourth win, the greatest comeback in Philippine basketball history was complete and a dynasty was born.

37. Manny Pacquiao makes his first PBA field goal

Manny Pacquiao is an eight-division world boxing champion and a Philippine Senator. He also now owns and runs his own basketball league. But for a time, Pacquiao was a playing-coach in the Philippine Basketball Association, making his debut for Kia as the league opened for the 2014-2015 season.

Kots Manny went 0/6 from the field in his rookie year and in the following season’s Philippine Cup, Pacquiao scores his first field goal against Rain or Shine. It was a baseline jumper agaisnt Chris Tiu.

Later in the Governors’ Cup, Pacquiao drilled his first career triple in a Mahindra win over Blackwater.


38.  “The Shot” in the 2016 Governors’ Cup Finals.

Ginebra and Meralco were tied late in Game 6 of their Finals clash.

The Gin Kings, who hold a 3-2 edge, inbound the ball for a halfcourt set and import Justin Brownlee receives the leather. Seconds later, Brownlee let’s a three-point shot go right in the face of Allen Durham.

It’s all net and “The Shot” ends Brgy. Ginebra’s eight-year title drough in ultra-dramatic fashion.

39. Gilas cadet draft

In 2016, the PBA did away with its normal draft to accomodate the Gilas Pilipinas cadets that were turning pro.

The order of the Gilas draft never went public but notable names like Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Jio Jalalon, and Mac Belo landed at Phoenix, TNT, Magnolia, and Blackwater respectively.

Cadets like Arnold Van Opstal and Alfonso Gotladera are already out of the league while guys like Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, Carl Bryan Cruz, Von Pessumal, Russel Escoto, and Mike Tolomia have found their niches for their respective squads. Blackwater’s Ael Banal is technically the no. 1 pick in 2016.

40. 54,086 fans make history in The Rematch

Ginebra and Meralco met in a highly-anticipated Finals rematch a year after “The Shot” and this time, the series goes distance.

In Game 7 of the 2017 Governors’ Cup Finals at the Philippine Arena, the PBA set a record with 54,086 fans in attendance. The 54,086 witnessed the Gin Kings hold off an incredible second-half rally by the Bolts and Ginebra won back-to-back titles.

41.  San Miguel wins the Perpetual trophy and then some (2018 Philippine Cup)

After the Beeracle in 2016, San Miguel became just the second team in history to win three straight All-Filipino titles in 2017.

Just last year, the Beermen made history again by becoming the first and only team to win the Philippine Cup in four consecutive years. San Miguel can stretch its unprecedented streak with another title in 2019.

42. June Mar makes his case as the GOAT

Ramon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, and June Mar Fajardo were all tied with four PBA MVPs apiece. But after Fajardo wrapped up his 6th season in the league in 2018, the Kraken was no doubt the MVP once again.

It’s hard to argue June Mar’s GOAT (Greatest of All Time) status now, he has five MVP awards and all of them came in succession after missing out on being Rookie of the Year in his freshman season.

He also has the most BPC award with seven. He’s on track for 8th in the current All-Filipino and a 6th straight PBA MVP will soon follow from what it looks like now.

43. Gilas Pilipinas makes the World Cup twice

The PBA has stayed committed to the Philippine national team all this time, with the country’s now two consecutive World Cup appearances being backed by the league.

In 2013, Gilas was an all-pro selection that ended up qualifying for the World Championships in 2014. As FIBA adjusted its qualifying windows, the PBA has tried its best to follow suit, with the league taking breaks to accomodate Gilas Pilipinas.

It proved to be worth it as the national team secured a 2019 World Cup ticket earlier this year.

44. Tinyete becomes Iron Man

On March 18, 2019, Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio played his 597th consecutive games, breaking Alvin Patrimonio's previous record of 596 games, ironically against the team Patrimonio manages, the Magnolia Hotshots.

Tenorio has not plans of stopping as the point guard now looks forward to playing 700 straight games and more.



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