On January 16, 1999…
At the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City…
This for me is the worst PBA Draft ever.
Say hello… to the 1999 PBA Draft.
As the weeks went, I featured a lot of old PBA Drafts that are bad. I mean… really bad. But in terms of ridiculousness, 1999 is the worst… at least in my opinion.
Because here’s the thing –
I am a PBA fan. I am a goddamn PBA fan. I will watch the games during my spare time and I will love the action it would bring regardless of team, score, time, and game attendance.
Well… maybe except for Kia… because I just hate their non-existent winning formulas.
I just do.
Anyway as a pre-teen, I learned that the best collegiate stars would eventually play in the PBA.
But 1999 was a different animal.
On March 7, 1998, the Metropolitan Basketball Association played its first game in Pangasinan. Backed by ABS-CBN, the league was created to undermine the PBA as the country’s premier basketball league. In the months leading to the opening, the MBA was able to poach erstwhile PBA stars like former MVP Ato Agustin, Bong Alvarez, Eugene Quilban, Manny Victorino, Romy dela Rosa, Yoyoy Villamin, and Bong Ravena as well as the future of Philippine basketball in Romel Adducul, John Ferriols, Eddie Laure, Norman Gonzales, Homer Se, Ato Morano, Biboy Simon, Gherome Ejercito, Don Camaso, Ralph Rivera, Wynne Arboleda, Rensy Bajar, and Omanzie Rodriguez just to name a few. Exceptional players who got lost in the shuffle in the PBA like Johnedel Cardel, Reuben dela Rosa, Peter Naron, Peter Martin, Max Delantes, Long David, Tonyboy Espinosa, and Jack Tanuan were given a chance to prove their worth. And then they were able to give opportunities to virtual unknowns and exceptions to the rule like Alex Compton, Dave Bautista, Stephen Padilla, Billy Bansil, and Dondon Hontiveros.
Without the MBA threat, Romel Adducul should have been the top pick of the 1998 PBA Draft. Perhaps one would argue that Danny Ildefonso is also a star in his own right back then BUT it was Adducul who went on to win championships, claim individual titles, and set unprecedented records. Perhaps in a stroke of luck, the decision of Adducul choosing the MBA over the PBA and Ildefonso choosing the PBA over the MVP robbed the former San Sebastian Stag of two MVP titles, five Best Player of the Conference awards, and a bunch of Mythical selections, and a slew of championships… as its star player.
To support of his home team Pangasinan Presidents, then-Chief of State Fidel V. Ramos attended the inaugural MBA game. When the president said in front of his peeps that “he was told that the MBA is better than the PBA”, shots were fired.
Vintage – then-PBA coverage partner – tried to block the MBA from airing its games on IBC. Even if the leagues had different timeslots, Vintage cited conflict of interest as one of the reasons why they refused to let the MBA show on their turf. The PBA would eventually change their stance… but this was when they knew that they won their matchup.
But perhaps the best PBA counterattack was when the league detonated three big-time bombs.
The first bomb is the re-introduction of the Tanduay Rhum Masters. Now this is in all aspects a good thing. Then called Stag Pale Pilsen, the team claimed a rare grand slam in the 1995-96 PBL season with the likes of Marlou Aquino, Bal David, Reuben dela Rosa, Paul Du, and Jason Webb leading the Alfrancis Chua charge. To promote their exciting gameplay to the pro ranks, the league agreed elevate the team’s six best players that have yet to see PBA action. If you compare this to the direct hires of Purefoods and San Miguel, this move made a lot sense. This is a PBL team whose dominance made them outgrow the said league. Still, it made the Rhum Masters insanely mighty right from the get go – with Eric Menk patrolling the shaded area like a shark on the prowl with the likes of Mark Telan, Chris Cantonjos, Jomer Rubi, Derrick Bughao, and Alvin Magpantay helping out. The Rhum Masters also elevated former pro Bobby Jose and free agent Jorge Gallent from their old PBL squad and with the acquisitions of former Ginebra players Jayvee Gayoso and Pido Jarencio alongside the re-entry of Chua protégé Jason Webb, it was easy to understand why Tanduay completed their debut year with a 28-22 record as old squads like Pop Cola and Ginebra combined for a ghastly 23-52.
And oh. I forgot about the 1999 PBA Draft proper.
Tanduay also got the first pick of the draft and they selected genetic freak Earl Sonny “The Big Punisher” Alvarado. At 6’7, Alvarado can dribble the ball, jam like a madman, haul boards like there’s no tomorrow and basically belittle the names that once lorded the shaded area. As if Menk is not enough, the selection gave Tanduay two monsters in the paint. Just imagine if Blackwater or Kia had top picks awarded to them right from the start?
I highly doubt that Kia would select Manny Pacquiao as the franchise’s first ever draft selection.
And if Alvarado and Menk is not enough, you can skip a couple of paragraphs because there’s more from these genetic freaks.
And then here’s the other PBA counterattack – teams can automatically tap amateur stars to join their rosters. Just think of the 2016 PBA Draft – but instead of directly choosing a player to have one Gilas Pilipinas cadet per team, the PBA permitted the move so that the MBA wouldn’t get said pick. THIS MOVE WAS DONE IN FEAR!!!! I guess I can also understand the league’s psyche… but I also find this unnecessary. The MBA already achieved in hoarding the best talents… so what’s good about the league getting the leftovers?
Take for instance Rommel Daep. The San Sebastian scorer is a player worthy of a first round selection but it’s not like he can power the league into overdrive. Lo and behold though, he was taken by San Miguel in the third round. The rationale behind the pick is simple – Daep is San Miguel’s direct hire and the Beermen didn’t have a first or a second round pick.
As a result of the MBA’s raiding of talent, the PBA had to mess up their draft to basically render it “nonsensical”.
The first round of the 1999 PBA Draft is as follows: Alvarado to Tanduay, Robin Mendoza to Ginebra (who was eventually traded to Talk N Text), Erwin Luna to Shell, Richard Yee to Purefoods, Roel Buenaventura to Pop Cola, Arnold Rodriguez to Shell, and Don Allado to Alaska.
If this draft happened in normal circumstances, I doubt if Allado would end up in the eighth spot. What if Allado went to Ginebra? I bet they would be better than the 15-27 win-loss record they have in the 1999 PBA season.
And if you’re asking about Sta. Lucia’s direct hire, that turned out to be Gerard Francisco. The former UST Growling Tiger is officially the tenth overall pick or the second player pick in the second round. The first player taken in the second round is former SWU star Danny Aying.
The third and perhaps the one that messed it all is the direct hire Fil-Ams. In an attempt to counter the talent raids and to take the league to a whole new level, the league gave teams the green light to directly sign Fil-Americans. The initial list had Asi Taulava going to Mobiline, Danny Seigle to San Miguel, and Jon Ordonio to Pop Cola. Over time we would see the likes of Tony dela Cruz, Mick Pennisi, Al Segova, Rob Parker, and James Walkvist joining the league.
As a PBA fan, it pains me to say this but the moves gave an impression that the PBA is afraid of the MBA. I understand that the league had to do it… especially with the abysmal finished product that was the 2000 PBA Draft. After a year of MBA talent raid, the draft became extremely shallow. However, it’s not like year 2000 was an utter dud. In a span of a year, the MBA unearthed problem after problem and the PBA capitalized by signing their top stars.
But in the process, these provisions made the 1999 PBA Draft look like a joke. It’s not a draft when the names are pre-determined and when teams disregard order. It’s automatic for people to read proper nouns over a slew of paragraphs!
And every move the PBA did backfired.
Tanduay came to the league pampered. With most teams either decimated or flawed, they had Menk and Alvarado and their powerhouse support crew to raise their title aspirations. Just imagine Telan and Cantonjos possibly taking a Top 5 spot in a normal PBA Draft… and yet they serve as mere backups to this hard-hitting one-two punch. The Rhum Masters almost won that season’s All-Filipino Cup. However with the influx of Fil-Ams, came a bunch of questions. These questions led to the investigations… and the eventual suspensions that sent the Rhum Masters’ standing from top dogs to a shell of their once-mighty selves.
Just imagine if Blackwater and NLEX were able to elevate parts of their D-League roster to the pro ranks? I am not saying Blackwater is going to turn “elite”, but the team would probably have Jericho Cruz doing the scoring with Kevin Ferrer starting at the small forward slot. For NLEX, they could have a team that included the likes of Kevin Alas, Jake Pascual, Kyle Pascual, Ronald Pascual, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and Rome dela Rosa. I bet Garvo Lanete wouldn’t delay his draft application because he wouldn’t need a draft application in the first place.
It came to me that it’s as if Tanduay developed this prima donna persona that didn’t sit well with the PBA. They debuted as one of the big men in campus and in some ways, they felt they were untouchable. I know the San Miguel Corp had the same mindset but they pretty much controlled the crowd then… until now. They became the annoying, know-it-all baby brother that went prodigal when the league imposed sanctions on their undertaking (the Danny Ildefonso contract, the suspensions to Menk and Alvarado, etc.). When they left the league because they had “enough”, they concocted the biggest hissy fit when they handed their top stars to the franchises they hated… which probably sealed the fate of Blackwater and NLEX (which is why NLEX preferred the route of acquisition instead of expansion) and in some ways, Welcoat (since they were able to elevate only a handful of their PBL players).
The Fil-Am influx eventually became a problem. Locals, led by Jojo Lastimosa, didn’t like the way they were taking their jobs. The Fil-Ams – whether they are as great as Menk and Taulava or as weak as… sorry Dennis Harrison but you’re the first name my brain dispatched… were highly regarded by the owners. It drastically changed the league landscape and it’s probably the reason why erstwhile inside operators like Alvin Patrimonio, Nelson Asaytono, and Noli Locsin had to change their gameplay by widening their range. Evolution is a good thing but it felt as if it was too drastic for an average PBA fan. With the diehards turning into casual followers… as well as the rise of primetime soaps… the league’s primetime dominance started to lose steam.
To solve this brouhaha, teams were given a limit in signing Fil-Ams.
Also, the influx gave rise to the word “Fil-Shams”. Al Segova and Robert Parker fled during the first phase of the head hunts and then Alvarado, Jon Ordonio, and Davonn Harp would follow suit. While Menk, Taulava, Rudy Hatfield, and Mick Pennisi would also leave and return to prove their innocence, it caused a lot of fans to turn away from the product. Speaking of fans, it didn’t help that some Fil-Ams don’t interact with them.
Alvarado became the only top pick deemed unqualified for the PBA Draft.
So since he abdicated the de facto top pick of the draft is… Robin Mendoza!
With the exception of the 2016 PBA Draft, the league has veered away from the direct hires. If you didn’t know the rationale behind the draft and you just opened its Wikipedia page, for sure you’ll be shocked to see Shell snubbing Don Allado twice for Luna and Rodriguez… like how unofficially Ponso Gotladera got picked ahead of Roger Pogoy.
And with this we end the list.
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