If everything pans out, the newly launched Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) will be like the NBA as envisioned by league founder Manny Pacquiao.
The MPBL formally opened its season on Thursday, unveiling 10 teams from various locations in Luzon and Metro Manila namely: the Bataan Defenders, the Batangas Athletics, the Bulacan Kuyas, the Caloocan Supremos, the Imus Bandera, the Muntilupa Cagers, the Navotas Clutch, the Parañaque Patriots, the QC Capitals and the Valenzuela Classic.
Pacquiao said he wants to see more teams joining the amateur league so they will be able to discover young talent from the provinces untapped by the popular collegiate leagues such as the UAAP and the NCAA.
“I believe we need this to give a chance ang mga kababayan natin na mahilig sa basketball na hindi pa nadidiskubre,” he said.
Pacquiao stressed the MPBL is not a competitor of the more established PBA.
“Hindi ito makikipagkumpitensya sa PBA, bangkus ito ay tutulong na madiskubre ang lahat ng magagaling na athletes dito sa Pilipinas,” he said.
More teams means more talent to discover, Pacquiao added.
“Naka-pattern kasi sa NBA ito. ‘Pag dumami na ang teams magkakaroon tayo ng North and South. Mapapanood ito sa mga probinsya, may mga homecourt at home and away,” he said.
League commissioner and former PBA MVP Kenneth Duremdes said the MPBL is about bringing basketball closer to Filipino fans wherever they are in the country.
“We're touching the heart of the basketball fans in the provinces. 'Yun ang key dito. Alam natin ang games sa Metro Manila medyo hindi masyadong na-e-excite ang fans except for the finals or when Ginebra is playing,” he said.
“In MPBL, we bring the games to their own cities and provinces in their own venues. ‘Pag may homegrown players, may fans tayo doon who will support their local heroes.”
The tournament will follow a single-round robin format with the 2 teams with the worst records eliminated. The top 4 teams, which will enjoy homecourt advantage, will each face the lower-tiered squads in a best-of-3 series.
The remaining 4 will face off in the best-of-3 semis, which will decide the final 2 teams for the championship round.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)