Speaking of abangan, isa sa pinakainaabangan ng mga Pinoy ay nagbalik na. And I am talking about the Philippine Basketball Association. I have been a big fan of the PBA, Asia's oldest professional basketball league, since the 80's when my San Miguel Beer captured its Grand Slam and my ultimate Pinoy hardcore idols namely Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Ato Agustin, and Hector Calma were still active. Sure a lot of long-time basketball aficionados have been talking about how better/mor exhilarating the brand of basketball was in the past particularly in the PBA than that of today's PBA and how 'boring' the current style is, no thanks to the more 'scientific' and 'controlled' systems being applied by teams of today in contrast to the more exciting, more free-flowing systems of the old teams, but today's PBA has, no doubt, made its own unique mark in the consciousness of the country's basketball fans, both old and new. Now whether this new crop of basketball heroes capture the imagination, the heart, and the loyalty of the fans in the same way as legends like Caloy Loyzaga, Bogs Abornado, Atoy Co, Sonny Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez, Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio, and Samboy Lim to name a few had done in the 70's, 80's, and 90's; and whether they usher in a new Golden Era for Philippine Basketball is definitely something to look forward to.
One thing I really like about the 33rd season of PBA is the adoption of a number of FIBA rules and the ditching of some old PBA rules in former's favor. This move will surely help our top players familiriaze themselves with international rules and brand of play. This will in turn bring them in a position to compete better in FIBA-sanctioned international games once our sports and basketball officials decide to tap our PBA players again to represent the country in these international tournaments including the FIBA Asia Championships and even - who knows - the FIBA World Championships and the Olympics.
So, what's my early favorite? Of course, I am still rooting for my San Miguel Beer team that now carries a new name, the Magnolia Beverage Masters. The team also boasts of a fully loaded line-up in terms of talent with the likes of RP Team veterans Olcen "Ra-Ra" Racela, sharpshooter Dondon Hontiveros, two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso, and 2007 FIBA Asia Club Mythical Five Selection Danny "the Dynamite" Seigle; ex-UAAP superstars Enrico "the Raging Bull" Villanueva, LA Tenorio, Wesly Gonzalez, and Larry "the Baby-faced Assassin" Fonacier (former Ateneo Blue Eagles all); former NCAA MVPs Gabby Espinas and Chris Calaguio; burly and reliable Fil-ams Willie Wilson and Dorian Pena; and former PBA Finals MVP Lordy Tugade under one roof. On paper, this is indeed the team to beat. But of course in a team sports like basketball, as they always say, nobody wins on paper alone. The team still has to be able to work as one cohesive unit; play great at both ends of the court; and compete with the same champion's heart as the San Miguel teams of the past.
Needless to say, I am excited to see this awesome collection of established and up-and-coming superstars in action on the court this new season. I am just not so excited about the change of name though, but this is another story.
So meantime --- BAKBAKAN NA!
(Update: Magnolia -112; AIR 21 - 97 with 4:20 to go in the first game of the season)
(Update No. 2: Magnolia wins 121 - 112. Here's a related story from the PDI)