MANILA - The top performers of the past two seasons of the PBA were honored on Sunday night, during the first ever virtual awards night of the league's Press Corps.
The Awards Night became a "two-in-one" ceremony, as the PBA Press Corps awarded the standout performers of both the 44th and 45th seasons. Last year's scheduled event had been called off at the last minute because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, usually a glittering ceremony attended by PBA players, coaches, and team officials, was instead held via Zoom on Sunday night, with a broadcast scheduled for the next evening.
Sharing the spotlight with the players and the coaches were the league's "frontliners" -- the PBA staff who made it possible to hold the bubble in Clark, Pampanga last year. They were given a special citation, formally received by PBA Deputy Commissioner Eric Castro via Zoom.
Because of the global health crisis, the PBA held a lone conference -- the Philippine Cup -- in a biosecure environment in Clark, with all 12 teams housed in one hotel while games were played in a single venue at the Angeles University Foundation Gym.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial was given the 2020 Mr. Executive Award for spearheading the league's resumption, seven months after the All-Filipino Cup was halted in March due to the pandemic.
"Nagpapasalamat ako sa PBA Press Corps. Paulit-ulit ko pong sinasabi -- kung wala ang media, wala ang PBA," said Marcial.
TNT Governor Ricky Vargas was the 2019 Executive of the Year. He, like Marcial, also expressed his profound thanks to the Press Corps for the recognition.
"I am confident that the challenges we've faced together will strengthen this lasting partnership between the PBA and the PBA Press Corps," said Vargas, who is also the chairman of the PBA Board of Governors.
Meanwhile, the 2019 President's Award was given to Vergel Meneses, one of the PBA's 25 Greatest Players and now the mayor of Bulakan, Bulacan.
"Napakalaking tulong ang binigay sa akin ng PBA," Meneses said. "Maraming salamat po sa inyo, sa PBA family, at sa PBA Press Corps."
The 2020 President's Award was given to all 12 PBA ball clubs.
Also honored during the event were San Miguel coach Leo Austria and Ginebra coach Tim Cone, as the 2019 Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year and the 2020 Outstanding Coach of the Bubble, respectively.
"This recognition will serve as an inspiration and motivation for me to work extra hard," said Austria, who steered San Miguel to an unprecedented fifth consecutive All-Filipino crown in 2019. "But this award will not be mine if not for the performance of the players. They made this for me."
This marks the fourth time in his career that Austria has won the Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year award.
Cone, in his speech, also honored the Dalupan family as well as those who made the bubble possible.
"If you weren't inside (the bubble), you really didn't know what an undertaking that was," said the 23-time PBA champion coach. "I want to thank the Board of Governors for putting it all together. It was like one big team in there, and Commissioner Willie Marcial was the leader of it all."
"Without that, none of this would have happened. It's an experience that will stay with me throughout my whole life," he said.
The awardees from last season were: Justine Chua (Top Bubble D-Fender), the quintet of Calvin Abueva, Chris Ross, Mark Barroca, Christian Standhardinger, and Chua (All-Bubble D-Fenders), RJ Jazul (Mr. Quality Minutes), CJ Perez (Scoring Champ), the Barangay Ginebra-Meralco Game 5 semis (Game of the Bubble) and Aaron Black, Arvin Tolentino, Roosevelt Adams, Barkley Ebona, and Renzo Subido (All-Rookie Team).
The awardees from the 2019 season, meanwhile, are the following: Terrence Romeo (Mr. Quality Minutes), June Mar Fajardo (Order of Merit), Perez (Scoring Champion), NorthPort vs. NLEX (Game of the Season), Perez, Robert Bolick, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Javee Mocon, and Abu Tratter (All-Rookie Team), Kiefer Ravena, Standhardinger, Beau Belga, Vic Manuel, Arwind Santos, and coach Yeng Guiao (All-Interview Team), and PBA D-League Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena (Aspirants’ Cup) and Hased Gabo (Foundation Cup).