PBA vs. B.League

Thirdy Ravena and Kobe Paras (photos in this post from Rappler)

Shaq said it best: I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok.

Always the funny man, the 7-foot-1 member of the NBA’s 75 greatest players list is correct. 

Sport is entertainment and entertainment means dollars.

The Philippine Basketball Association right now is in a quandary. Founded in 1975, the PBA is Asia’s oldest pro basketball league and ranks as the world’s second oldest (next to the NBA, born in 1946).

The PBA has a money problem. Sure, the league has 12 ballclubs owned by the nation’s largest conglomerates. But, no thanks to the PBA’s salary cap, some are not being paid enough which leads to the exodus.

Kiefer Ravena. His younger brother Thirdy. There’s Kobe Paras. How about Ray Parks, Jr.? Then the Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. There’s Kemark Carino and the 6-foot-4 Fil-Am who was supposedly one of the hottest prospects for the PBA, Dwight Ramos.

These eight athletes are no ordinary names. Many of them are UAAP heartthrobs with a torrent of social media followers. Kobe Paras, the son of Benjie, is a superstar-in-the-making. All eight of them are not playing in Manila but in Japan.

It’s called the B.League and, while founded recently in 2016, it has aggressively recruited big names from the international market.

Simply put, the Japanese pro league is offering our stars (in particular, the rookies) double or triple the money they’d earn if they were to suit up as an NLEX or Barangay Ginebra point guard.

Take Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks Jr. They are two-time UAAP MVPs whom we’d love to see playing in Araneta Coliseum or the MOA. Instead, the Iloilo-born Ravena is not playing for the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters but for Japan B League’s San-en NeoPhoenix. 

Bobby Ray Parks played with Blackwater Elite and TNT in Manila before heading north to suit up for the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.

Long-term, this exodus of top caliber talent will continue to be a PBA problem. The world has turned borderless. This pandemic has changed our outlook — even how we can quickly buy a product from China via Lazada or Shopee and have it delivered in our doorstep on 12 days.

Same with our players. While before they were stuck in the Philippine archipelago, who would stop the pro leagues from South Korea or China from offering P1 million per month when SMB can only give P450,000?

The other day, I heard NBA Commissioner Adam Silver say that 25% of the NBA players are not native Americans. One out of every four in the NBA today is a foreigner. Globalization has created a borderless planet. There is no preventing our talents from leaving and going to our Asian neighbors or Europe or America. 

Money, money, money. The PBA ballclubs have to offer more. The problem is, I’m unsure about the 46-year-old league. And if the PBA’s reputation and following diminishes, so will the incentive of companies to spend more.

It’s all about content. Is the PBA able to continue offering entertainment that excites and energizes?

Categorized as PBA

Back to Normal

It has been 19 months since the world changed in March 2020. That’s when the Covid-19 pandemic affected the lives of the planet’s 7.9 billion people. 

The world of sports was impaired. The Tokyo Games was moved 12 months later. Wimbledon got canceled. And while we used to watch 25,639 fans screaming inside an indoor arena, we’ve gotten used to observing empty stadiums with fake spectators plastered on LED screens.

This was 2020. It’s 2021. In Europe and in the U.S. today, mask-less fans sit side-by-side at Premier League games and the U.S. Open. The world of sports has slowly returned to normal.

The NBA is back to live action. This October 19, the 76th season of the NBA begins and all teams get to play 82 games. Two blockbuster encounters are scheduled on Opening Day: the LA Lakers vs. the Golden State Warriors; and the defending champs Milwaukee Bucks against the Brooklyn Nets.

LeBron, AD and Westbrook vs. Steph and Klay Thompson. Plus, it’s Giannis vs. Durant and Kyrie. Can it get any better than this double-header?

Yes. The even better news is the return of the boisterous, crazy and loud-voiced human beings who will spillover the arenas.

The NBA has 30 teams. Each city will have varying rules but, in general, we expect tens of thousands back in attendance. (I did a quick research and, since the pandemic struck, the largest sports gathering was the Indy 500 race last May when 135,000 fans packed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.) 

With the NBA, what are the Covid-19-related policies?

First, the non-negotiables that all teams must follow. This includes requiring all coaches and staff to be vaccinated. This rule, however, does not apply to the players. It’s estimated that only five percent are unvaccinated — including Kyrie Irving. The 6-foot-2, Melbourne, Austrialia-born guard is in a quandary; New York has strict rules and Kyrie might have to be tested daily before playing.

For the spectators, the league-wide policy includes requiring all fans seated within 15 feet of the court or player benches to either be vaccinated or to show proof of a recent negative test. 

Of the NBA’s 30 teams, at least half of the squads will employ a ruling that will allow only the vaccinated or tested spectators to enter.

The strictest is the Toronto Raptors (Canada). They require proof of vaccination. No jab, no entry. Also, fans must wear masks (except when eating or drinking). Three other teams are as strict as the Raptors: the Knicks, Nets and Warriors.

Eleven teams will require either a jab or a test. These include the Pelicans, Lakers, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Clippers, Thunder, Jazz, Bulls, Kings and Celtics.

The rest of the teams are not as strict. The Atlanta Hawks, for example, do not require any proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test to watch. They don’t even require the fans to wear masks.

I can’t wait for the start of the N.B.A…

Normal. Ballgame. At last.

Categorized as NBA