SEOUL – Kapampangans vs Ilocanos. Visayans vs Fil-Ams. Metro Manilans vs Mindanaoans.
Seven years after the Philippine Basketball Association, under then commissioner Sonny Barrios, brought the All-Star Weekend experience to three regions around the country, league chairman Mikee Romero, team owner of the Globalport Batang Pier, believes the time has come to go national once again.
“It has been done before; I’m sure we can do it again although with a different format,” said Romero during the PBA of Governors Planning session here. “We’d like to see fans cheer for their provincemates. Talagang labanan.”
League media bureau chief Willie Marcial said the proposal had already been broached to PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa and the governors, and the response has been positive.
“They’ll be talking more about it when we return to Manila,” said Marcial, adding the concept is not new, having been done before in April 2009 when the PBA brought the FIBA Asia-bound national team under coach Yeng Guiao and backed by governor JB Baylon’s Powerade company, along with a North and South All-Star selection, to Victorias Negros Occidental, Panabo, Davao del Norte, and then back to the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City for the culmination.
The national team routed the North, 98-80, at the Victoria City Sports and Recreational Arena on April 22 as Mick Pennisi scored 15 points before turning back the South, 103-99, at the Panabo City Tourism, Cultural and Sports Center two days later behind the 12 points of Jared Dillinger.
The PBA delegation then returned to Manila for the Obstacle Challenge, won by Barangay Ginebera San Miguel’s Paul Artadi, the Three-Point Shootout, ruled by Purefoods’ James Yap, and the Slam Dunk Competition, where Ginebra import David Noel beat Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood in a dunk-off.
Climaxing the event was the All-Star Game where a PBA selection, coached by Chot Reyes and powered by four imports and four Fil-Ams, defeated Powerade-PH, 100-94, on April 26 with Arwind Santos and Noel each scoring 18 points.
The 2017 PBA All-Star Week is likewise scheduled for April.
In lieu of the usual North vs South tradition, however, Rep. Romero, a new member of the House of Representatives, is pushing for a more regional flavor by putting together in one team PBA players who trace their origins from Pampanga, the Ilocos Region, Visayas, Mindanao and Metro Manila.
A Fil-foreign selection is also being mulled.
“This way, fans will be truly rooting for their home team,” said Romero.
Marcial said the ideal number of teams would be six, depending on the availability of players and venues for the events.
The proposal will be discussed in the board’s next meeting before the 42nd season opening on Nov. 20. Also up for deliberation are the continued hiring of Asian imports, inviting club teams for the Governors’ Cup and bigger promotion for the season-ending Leo Awards. Already approved by the team representatives is the uniform height limit for imports in the Commissioner’s Cup (6-foot-10) and Governors’ Cup (6-foot-5).
Also in attendance in the planning session were Ramoncito Fernandez of NLEX, Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, Dioceldo and Silliman Sy of Blackwater, Tom Alvarez of Mahindra, Atty. Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Atty. Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix, Rene Pardo of Star, Erick Arejola of Globalport, Patrick Gregorio of TNT Katropa, Ryan Gregorio of Meralco, Alfrancis Chua of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and previous chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Beer.
Narvasa, Marcial, deputy commissioner Rickie Santos and PBA legal counsel Melvin Mendoza represented the Commissioner’s Office.