After much delay due to the corona virus outbreak and its previous season spanning almost 14 months, the Philippine Basketball Association is set to begin its 45th season.
With centerpiece Junemar Fajardo out for the entire year after undergoing surgery on his fractured tibia, the title race is wide open. But just before Fajardo’s San Miguel Beermen officially tip it off this Sunday against the Magnolia Hotshots, we take a look at some reasons why this year is one of the most exciting ones to watch in recent years.
Asia’s oldest pay-for-play basketball league has an influx of new blood after the 2019 Draft. Despite some of the names being withheld for the Gilas program in the buildup for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, there are still a lot of players left on the table.
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Barkley Eboña who was picked up much earlier than expected in the draft, could become the next reliable “iron man” for the Alaska Aces. Jerrick Balanza—after his long story of a basketball return—could not have asked for a better team than Ginebra and to learn under Tenorio and Thompson. Northport’s Sean Manganti could be the next great stretch forward, and he has two good ones in Sean Anthony and Kevin Ferrer by his side.
Former FEU Tamaraw Wendell Comboy probably has the best backcourt teammates in the league in San Miguel where he could learn much from. Former Green Archer Kib Montalbo could also pick up more than a couple of lessons from TNT mainstays Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes on how he can last longer than people expect him in the association.
But it’s Rain or Shine who possesses the most rookies in the squad with Adrian Wong, Prince Rivero, Vince Tolentino, and Clint Doliguez making the cut for the upcoming Philippine Cup. With the Elasto Painters parading an aging core, they could be the bridge toward a new winning era and they have the best guys to mentor them in Gabe Norwood, James Yap, and Beau Belga.
Several PBA names that fans have grown accustomed to will be playing in their final season this year.
Alaska’s Sonny Thoss, Magnolia’s Peter June Simon, NLEX’s Cyrus Baguio and Asi Taulava, and TNT’s Harvey Carey will hang up their shoes after almost two decades in the league.
Thoss, the 38-year old Alaska slotman, has played all his career for the Aces, and has been the face of its frontline for 16 seasons. Together with PJ Simon, he will call it quits immediately after the Philippine Cup. Simon meanwhile, will get his No. 8 jersey retired by the Hotshots—the only franchise he has suited up for since 2004—in a ceremony on May 8th during a Manila Classico game vs. Ginebra.
Taulava will become only player ever to play in four different decades, having started in the PBA in 1999 when he was a direct hire from Brigham Young University. The 17-time all-star may now be looking to start his coaching career after having served as one of the assistant coaches in the UP Women’s Basketball team last year.
The journeyman Baguio will finally hang it up after spending 17 years with 6 different teams, winning the PBA title three times. The former UST standout was also an 11-time PBA all-star and Finals MVP Awardee in 2010.
Last but not least, Carey—who has played all his years with TNT—is looking to add to his already stellar resume of 7 PBA championships. One last run with his buddies Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes may just be enough to earn one or two more, especially with Fajardo out.
One recent and curious development for PBA players is their sudden fashion icon status. Like their idols and counterparts in the NBA, PBA players have also been making the extra effort to strut their clothes from the parking lot as they make their way into the coliseum.
Players like Magnolia’s Paul Lee and PJ Simon, Ginebra’s LA Tenorio, San Miguel Beer’s Chris Ross, and Rain or Shine’s James Yap show off their outfits upon arriving and leaving the games. Even the young bloods have been aware of the trend and are proud to show their style for everyone to see. Rain or Shine’s Jayvee Mocon and Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson are just some of the guys who wear the luxury brands such as Balmain, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Balenciaga.
But that’s not to say all PBA players are into these luxury companies. Several others prefer the simple and easy look a.k.a. the #CozyFam. Some top of mind names are Joe Devance, Baser Amer, and the veteran Reynel Hugnatan.
From the looks of it, this may just be one of the most unpredictable PBA seasons in history. Fans of all ages will get to see stars play their final games, while at the same time welcome new names that may just be the building blocks of Philippine basketball in the next decade.
Whether its on court or off, the 2020 PBA Season is shaping up to be one heck of a show.