The recent blockbuster trade that featured superstars James Yap of the Star Hotshots and Paul Lee of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters has rocked the PBA landscape. The two marquee players are considered the most important assets of their respective teams, making the move all the more shocking.
Explosive player swaps, of course, are nothing new in the league's 40-year-history. One of the most significant was the trade that started it all—when U/Tex Wranglers parted ways with superstar Danny Florencio and Jimmy Otazu for 7/Up Uncola's Cristino Reynoso and Carlos Rodriguez.
Florencio, one of a handful of legitimate superstars back then, was U/Tex’s leading scorer and eventually ended the 1977 season as the league's top scorer with a scorching average of 32.3 points per game as an Uncola. To date, Daredevil Danny's scoring clip remains to be an unmatched feat, one of the longest standing records in PBA history.
From thereon, player trades have become a fixture in the league. Whether it was for purposes of improving the team's chances to win a title, or acquiring a popular player to draw the fans, or to enable one to meet the salary cap requirements, barter agreements among PBA teams is not uncommon. Yet, it continues to shock fans, especially when it dealt with superstar players.
Here is FHM's list of the top blockbuster trades in PBA history, ranked chronologically:
1) William Adornado for cash (1979)
Crispa's William "Bogs" Adornado was the only two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the time. He suffered a major knee injury in the middle of the 1976 season, which sidelined him for at least two years. He staged a comeback for the Redmanizers in 1979, but was used sparingly by Coach Baby Dalupan to avoid reinjuring himself. It was apparent that the Redmanizers have learned to play without him. In an unprecedented move, the vaunted Redmanizers traded Adornado to its kontra pelo, the U/Tex Wranglers, for P100,000 cash. Many felt Crispa's move was to provide Adornado the opportunity to display his offensive wares once more, something he couldn't do anymore in a loaded Crispa squad. In 1981, Adornado copped his third MVP plum and remained to be an MVP contender until the 1985 season.
2) Ramon Fernandez for Alberto Guidaben, Part 1 (1985)
Has there been a time when the top two centers of the league have been traded for each other? It has, not just once, but twice! Let's start with the first trade when Ramon Fernandez, then a two-time MVP winner (1982 & 1984) was playing for the Manila Beer Brewmasters and rival Alberto Guidaben, the 1983 MVP, suited up for the Tanduay Rhum Makers after Crispa had disbanded at the end of the 1984 season. Both players remained the dominant slotmen in the league, but Guidaben was having the better season after having adjusted quickly with his new team. But with both teams struggling in the 3rd Conference, Manila Beer initiated the move to ship Fernandez to Tanduay for Guidaben. Although the Brewmasters ended up runner-up in that conference, Fernandez had the better of Guidaben in the succeeding season as Tanduay romped away with the first two conference titles.
3) Ramon Fernandez for Alberto Guidaben, Part 2 (1988)
Guidaben was coming off a sterling season for the San Miguel Beermen, winning the MVP award in 1987. On the other hand, Fernandez's team, Tanduay, disbanded prior to the start of the season, but was acquired by the Purefoods Hotdogs where management appointed him as playing coach. Guidaben helped steer the Beermen to the first conference title at the expense of Purefoods, but narrowly lost to Añejo Rum 65, 102-100, in a sudden death game for the second Finals berth and the right to meet the Hotdogs in the championship. Fernandez, who gave up his coaching job to concentrate on his playing, was responsible for leading a rookie-laden Hotdogs team made up of Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, Jojo Lastimosa, Glenn Capacio to its second straight Finals appearance.
Controversy marked Game 1 of the All-Filipino finals as Añejo, the decisive underdogs, shocked the Hotdogs, 111-105. In a shocking move, Purefoods management ordered their coach, Cris Calilan, to bench Fernandez brought about by "game-fixing" allegations (that were eventually not proven). Añejo won the title in 4 games. Purefoods then shipped Fernandez to San Miguel Beer for Guidaben prior to the start of the 3rd Conference. This made Guidaben allegedly quip, "Yun kalokohan niya, pati ako nadadamay!" At the time, Guidaben was ahead in that year's MVP race, but since Purefoods performed below par in the final conference, Fernandez was able to snatch the MVP award from his main nemesis.
4) Bong Solomon to Ginebra for first round pick (1995)
This seemed to be a normal trade sans fanfare—Bong Solomon, a promising power forward who struggled in his first three seasons with the Alaska Milkmen, was dangled to Ginebra that was in dire need of a legitimate big man. Ginebra coach Robert Jaworski had been eyeing Solomon since his dominant amateur days and was more than willing to give up its first round pick (6th overall), convinced that the former San Sebastian Stag would shore up his team's frontline.
But Ginebra got the raw end of the deal as Solomon turned out to have a detached retina in his eye that prevented him from playing to his skill level. After detecting Solomon's health condition, Ginebra team manager Ber Navarro complained to the PBA Board, which prompted then Commissioner Jun Bernardino to revise the rules, requiring teams to conduct a physical checkup of the players being acquired via trades. If found unhealthy, the transaction would be rescinded.
Solomon retired after a couple of underwhelming seasons. Alaska landed Jeffrey Cariaso, thanks to the 6th pick Ginebra gave away. He went on to become a major part of the franchise's grandslam conquest in 1996.
5) Danny Ildefonso for Noy Castillo (1998)
Just how coveted was the first overall pick of the 1998 draft? At a time when the fledgling league, the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) was being formed, and top amateur slotman Romel Adducul was tapped to play for the Manila Metrostars, the other prized amateur big man, Danny Ildefonso, was being recruited by the Pangasinan Waves.
Somehow, then SMB coach Ron Jacobs persuaded Ildefonso to join the PBA draft. The problem was Formula Shell owned the first overall pick, and while they may have preferred to draft crack Fil-Am guard Noy Castillo from Citadel owing to the presence of Benjie Paras in their team, they knew Ildefonso's worth. Shell was willing to give up their first overall pick for San Miguel's second overall pick, a future draft pick, and any SMB player except for Olsen Racela. Jacobs thumbed down this proposal, claiming Ildefonso wasn't worth that much. Shell ended up drafting Ildefonso and SMB acquiring Castillo but within minutes the two agreed to swap their respective picks.
Rumors had it that Shell gave up on Ildefonso because he was only willing to play for SMB and would not sign with any other team. And if he did end up without any team, he would find himself suiting up for the Waves in the MBA. Shell, not wanting to end up with an empty bag, eventually opted to greenlight the trade.
6) Allan Caidic to Ginebra (1999)
Allan Caidic going to Ginebra San Miguel after being appointed playing assistant coach was one of the most compelling headlines in PBA history. With Ron Jacobs having a greater role in basketball operations within the SMC conglomerate, he decided to move Caidic to Ginebra to backstop Robert Jaworski, Sr. on the bench. Senator Jaworski, who was on leave at the time, resigned from his coaching post, as management did not consult him about the move. His resignation rocked the PBA; he was still the league's most popular player after all. As expected, Ginebra, with the fading Triggerman in its lineup, faltered at the start of the season, disappointing its legion of fans. It took Bal David's buzzer-beating jumper in the All Filipino quarterfinal sudden death game versus Mobiline that the Ginebra faithful rekindled their devotion to the team.
7) Jerry Codiñera for Andy Seigle (1999)
The Purefoods franchise has become the second most popular team in the league with its superstars Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codiñera in the fold. After 11 seasons, the two have given the Hotdogs five championships while being known as perhaps the best big men duo in the league. That was why Purefoods’ fans couldn’t help but be emotional when the Defense Minister was traded to the Mobiline Phone Pals for 1997 Rookie of the Year, Andy Seigle. No longer the imposing inside presence that he once was with Purefoods, Codiñera did his best patrolling the lane as best he could for his new team. Seigle, on the other hand, took a while before clicking with his Hotdogs teammates. Eventually, he found his place in Purefoods' offensive scheme, helping the team win the 2002 Governors’ Cup title.
8) Tanduay's firesale trade prior to disbandment (2002)
When the previously Elizalde family-owned Tanduay Rhum Masters rejoined the PBA in 1999 under the new management of Lucio Tan, Sr., many felt a new rivalry between corporate competitors SMC and Tanduay would catch fire around the league. The Rhum Masters were dominant from the get-go, reaching the 1999 All-Filipino Conference Finals. But after reeling from one controversy after another, management felt they were not getting a fair shake from the PBA. Prior to selling its franchise to the Lina-owned FedEx group, the team traded away Eric Menk, its best player, to Ginebra for Elmer Lago, Alex Crisano, and two future draft picks. Dondon Hontiveros, another key player, was dealt to SMB for Freddie Abuda. Further strengthened by Hontiveros, San Miguel remained a championship contender, while Menk brought about a winning tradition for the Kings, giving the franchise a handful of championships as the main guy.
9) Asi Taulava for Ali Peek (2007)
The PBA's top slotman Asi Taulava, then playing for the Talk 'N Text Phone Pals, had no inkling he was going to be traded after having won the MVP award in 2003. But an opportunity came up when Coca-Cola offered Ali Peek and their 2008 first round pick for the Fil-Tongan. It was an offer too good to refuse that then TNT coach Derrick Pumaren was more than willing to gamble. Coke, on the other hand, needed a big man of Asi’s caliber to become championship contenders once more. The move turned out well for Peek, as he won several titles thereafter with TNT under Chot Reyes. Curiously, Reyes once said that TNT had made a mistake of trading Taulava, who delivered huge numbers for Coke, but was unable to win a title after getting his first ring with TNT in 2003.
10) Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros, Dorian Peña to Air 21 (2010)
When SMB was lording it over the rest of the field in the early 2000s, five players formed the nucleus of that championship team: Ildefonso, Danny Seigle, Dorian Peña, Racela, and Hontiveros. To see them play for other teams would have been bizarre. But over the years, the franchise wanted to infuse younger blood to stay relevant and competitive. And there was no better way for the Beermen to go younger but to snare the Top 3 draft picks of the 2010 rookie batch—Noy Baclao, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Rey Guevarra. To get these three, SMB had to part ways with Seigle, Hontiveros, Peña, and Paul Artadi, as DI and Racela were at the cusp of retirement. The move didn't sit well with many SMB fans, although they eventually warmed up to the move when the Beermen fulfilled its mission of going younger, with no less than three-time league MVP Junemar Fajardo now the face of the franchise.
Honorable mentions: Allan Caidic to San Miguel (1993); Nelson Asaytono for Renato Agustin (1996); Marlou Aquino for Jun Limpot (2000); Kenneth Duremdes to Sta. Lucia (2003), and Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes to Talk 'N' Text (2010)