Spoiler alert: The last two entries on this list has the letters M, B, and A connected to it. It’s also in some ways associated with Fil-Shams, Bureau of Immigration, expansion squads, and the uselessness of the PBA Draft.
Before this time, the PBA is the only professional basketball in league in the Philippines. A so-so collegiate player could prematurely retire if he can’t crack the PBA in his first three post-college years. The PBL all of a sudden became a hotbed for grizzled former PBA players like Bobby Jose, grizzled vets pristine from PBA wear and tear like Melchor Crisostomo, and players from non-NCAA and non-UAAP schools like Randy Alcantara… just to name a few.
With the creation of Metro Ball, players were given an opportunity to prove their worth. Snubs were given a chance to ball and while the league would eventually fold because of insane costs, poor draws, and talent exodus, it existed enough to give erstwhile has-beens a chance to promote their importance.
So let’s dive in on number two.
2000 PBA Draft
After a lengthy tenure in the PBL whose career kickstarted in 1994, the Red Bull Thunder became the league’s tenth franchise. Like the Tanduay Rhum Masters, they were given a chance to elevate their top five players. The Photokina franchise that once competed under the Agfa banner once had a bumper crop of talent led by Henry Fernandez, Paolo Mendoza, Robin Mendoza, Gil Lumberio, Don Camaso, Lordy Tugade, Jonas Mariano, Braulio Lim, Jimwell Torion, and Danny Ildefonso. Sadly, their former stars have either made the jump or were doing their business elsewhere.
Jimwell Torion, Lordy Tugade, Bernard Tanpua, and Junthy Valenzuela got their chance to play in the PBA with Fil-Am ace Davonn Harp and prodigy Kerby Raymundo serving as their best assets. Red Bull also acquired the services of Mick Pennisi in the middle of the 2000 PBA season.
Okay – one would think Bernard Tanpua’s PBA career was a dud… but at least he had the privilege to get a considerable amount of playing time.
Paolo Mendoza became the first pick overall of the Sta. Lucia Realtors in the 2000 PBA Draft. Then Marc Stevens Victoria took his talents to Pop Cola. DLSU guard Dino Aldaguer orchestrated a Purefoods stint and then Erwin Velez got called up by Talk N Text. Ogie Gumatay proved to be Red Bull’s smart choice at fifth with Egay Billones getting the shot at Ginebra. Jun Carmona ended up in San Miguel with Glen Peter Yap and Patrick Madarang going to Alaska. Randy Lopez finished the first round players via Sta. Lucia.
Despite the addition of the Red Bull franchise, none of these players made significant impact for their respective teams (with the exception of Paolo Mendoza). In fact, only 50 percent of the players taken in the first round were able to play for their assigned teams. Billones had to wait for two years before getting plucked by Air21 while Aldaguer and Velez became free agent pickups by Alaska and Red Bull, respectively. Moreover with the exception of Paolo Mendoza and in some ways Egay Billones, none of these players were able to play for more than five seasons. And if you think the second round toppled the first, then tell that to Allan Gamboa who barely saw action for the Pop Cola Panthers.
This was the time when the MBA was starting to lose their top stars to the PBA. Initially, MBA was seen as a viable contender to the first play-for-pay league in Asia but when the players saw the big picture that the PBA is their dream and the MBA is a mere stepping stone, the MBA’s top players began to switch allegiances. The MBA is an ambitious project with an expiry date. As soon as their players forsake city loyalty and as soon as the fans see the league beyond the free threes and the blitz threes and the 23-second rule, it was the beginning of their end.
So with that said, the 2000 PBA Draft is doomed in so many fronts.
With tried and tested players available, what good are the rookies compared to what the ex-MBA players offered? Paolo Mendoza is an elite scorer during college but I doubt if he’ll get top pick status if only the league made the likes of Jayjay Helterbrand, Dondon Hontiveros, Dorian Pena, Rob Wainwright, Ronald Magtulis, Alex Crisano, Don Camaso, Gherome Ejercito, Dale Singson, Wynne Arboleda, and Rudy Hatfield join the PBA Draft. And if a wunderkind like Mendoza would fall from top pick to late first rounder, then what about the likes of Marc Victoria, Dino Aldaguer, and Erwin Velez?
But then you have to ask yourselves if the MBA problem as well as the six Red Bull elevated talents are the root of the draft’s ridiculous state. As far as I’m concerned, the draft is that shallow. Selecting Mendoza is easy in all front because the Realtors had to be insane to pick anyone else. Even if I didn’t know the outcome of the draft batch, the 2000 PBA Draft first round doesn’t look like a first round. Just take in consideration that the fifth round of the 2001 PBA Draft had the likes of Peter June Simon, Topex Robinson, and David Friedhof. The third round of the 2002 PBA Draft had the likes of Celino Cruz, Aries Dimaunahan, Rensy Bajar, Jason Misolas, and Junel Mendiola. And then to cap off my point, the 2003 PBA Draft had Cyrus Baguio, Ronald Tubid, John Ferriols, Sunday Salvacion, Adonis Sta. Maria, and Eugene Tejada going to the second round. Sure these names could have lucked out but these names had better pro careers.
Without question, the 2000 PBA Draft is seen as the worst draft class in league history and a year later, the PBA would force the MBA players who have yet to see action in the league to participate in the PBA Draft. Also, Red Bull would experience the same problems Tanduay had with Fil-Ams Harp and Mick Pennisi as well as with Raymundo and his documents.
But then this isn’t the worst draft in PBA history.
At least as I view it.