Did PBA make wrong selection in Top 40 list?

By Jason Inocencio

Posted at Dec 10 2014 11:08 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2014 07:08 AM

Controversy. Anger. Resentment. Reopening old wounds.

These aren’t words the PBA wanted to be associated with when they released their list of Top 40 Players of All Time last week. After making their Top 25 when they celebrated their Silver Anniversary in 1999, the league decided to add to the list as they commemorated their 40th. However, instead of being a glorious tribute to the league’s best stars, the release of the list has instead brought out anger from netizens, leading most to question the reasoning or the integrity of the committee that made their choices.

25 + 15 = not enough

For the record, the original 25 players chosen to be part of the 25 Greatest Players in PBA History were composed of all-time greats Robert Jaworski, Mon Fernandez, Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Bernie Fabiosa, Freddie Hubalde, Francis Arnaiz, Danny Florencio, Manny Paner, Lim Eng Beng, Ricardo Brown, Benjie Paras, Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa, Johnny Abarrientos, Ato Agustin, Allan Caidic, Hector Calma, Kenneth Duremdes, Samboy Lim, Ronnie Magsanoc and Vergel Meneses.

The committee then chose 15 more luminaries for a total of 40, namely Danny Ildefonso, Willie Miller, James Yap, Asi Taulava, Eric Menk, Kelly Williams, Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mark Caguioa, Kerby Raymundo, Marc Pingris, Chito Loyzaga, Marlou Aquino and Arwind Santos. Automatically drafted to the list were all former league Most Valuable Players. Also, they should have already played at least five season, should have earned a major award, and must have created a great impact on the PBA and the sport of basketball. These 40 names will be honored by league in an event highlighting the PBA’s 40th anniversary in April 2015.

Immediately, one can see that several very credible and sensational athletes are not on this list. Nelson Asaytono, Danny Seigle, Olsen Racela, Jeffrey Cariaso, Bong Hawkins and Abe King, to name a few, were omitted. It didn’t take long for Filipino basketball fans to state their displeasure online.

A committee of 'experts'

Perhaps the problem with the list is inherent in the committee assembled to compile it. Former PBA players and senators Jaworski and Freddie Webb were asked to join the group together with current PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio, vice chairman Robert Non, media members Quinito Henson and Barry Pascua, and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, chairman of the Games and Amusements Committee in Congress. Also part of the committee though not attending the December 1 meeting that came out with the final list were former Alaska board governor Joaqui Trillo and Inquirer sports editor Teddyvic Melendres.

Just looking at that group, one can see people with vested interests as well as clear connections with established PBA teams. Jaworski will always be associated with Barangay Ginebra, has given inspirational speeches to Ginebra players during playoff games, and even appeared in ads with those players. Gregorio represents Meralco, but can easily speak for all three teams owned by the MVP group. Non has served as PBA board representative for both San Miguel Beer and Ginebra.

Meanwhile, Henson has never hidden his association with San Miguel Corporation chairman Danding Cojuangco that goes back to the 1980s. Trillo was associated with Alaska for over two decades, and two of his sons, assistant coach Luigi and team manager Paolo, are presently on the Meralco bench. Then we have Barzaga, who the PBA has justified as qualified to be part of this assemblage because he has been a fan of the sport since even before the league was formed. These associations and affinities with organizations, blocs, and team owners are crystal clear and cannot be denied by the people involved.

Neglected, excluded, insulted

Since the list was announced, one of the most vocal critics has been Asaytono. Passed over in favor of Agustin in the 1991 MVP voting, the man known as “The Bull” and currently No. 4 on the PBA’s all-time scoring list couldn’t help but feel snubbed and unappreciated once again after this oversight. Seigle, who like Asaytono could be the best player never to win an MVP award, also expressed his bewilderment over his and longtime teammate Racela’s exclusion.

For his part, Taulava has volunteered to give up his spot on the list in favor of Asaytono, stating his long time admiration for The Bull and admitting he tried to copy some of Asaytono’s moves over the years. The so-called “intangibles” of hustle, defense and charisma cannot be measured, yet they seem to have been given too much sway in several instances regarding some players chosen.

Headshaking choices

When any list such as this is assembled, names will inevitably be left out. However, the PBA could have smoothed things over significantly if they had placed more thought into the people comprising the selection committee in the first place. Any list will be subjective in nature, but the vested interests and associations that so many of these committee members have with entire voting blocs and organizations that are perceived to be running the PBA from behind the scenes only calls into question the integrity of the process.

There may be no way to correct the injustice that has been committed against the excluded athletes. The PBA has already defended their list and the committee they chose to assemble it. This list was supposed to shine a bright spotlight on the league as it celebrate its four years of existence but instead, it has cast shadows on its decision makers, left many wondering how certain players who barely had any impressive statistics let alone long-term league-wide impact, could be selected while many worthy choices were not.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.