If we're being honest, 2017 wasn’t quite the banner year for basketball, but it was still certainly eventful. Here are the top things FHM is thankful for as the year closes and makes way for the new.
A fairytale NCAA season
On one hand, a previously unheralded team books their Finals ticket by running a historical unbeaten 16-0 season, led by a league MVP previously shunned by the UAAP. On another, a former benchwarmer who clawed his way to the top of the standings against all odds to beat the unbeaten.
Despite the San Beda Red Lions once again grabbing the NCAA gold, the narrative made this season a totally different animal. Robert Bolick, fresh off wiping benches for the De La Salle Green Archers, was given keys to the Bedan offense and ate his clutch minutes for breakfast, averaging 9 ppg in the fourth quarter alone and giving the San Beda community an emotional leader to cheer on despite several vets moving on to the PBA. He went on to close out Game 2 with 18 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds en route to an inspiring, all-around performance.
CJ Perez, Lyceum’s new wunderkind, was no slouch either—despite falling in the last two games, Perez has catapulted Lyceum into prominence and is now looking forward to enhancing his MVP season with a new catalyst: revenge.
And the best part of all this? Both players will be back for the NCAA next season, promising fans one last round of greatness.
Gilas goes world class
It will take us six years to get there, but the Philippines will finally get to showcase its basketball-crazed heritage to the world.
Winning the joint bid with fellow nations Japan and Indonesia, the Philippines will host the 2023 FIBA World Cup, and with it an endless dearth of possibilities for the local lineup. Gilas backer MVP has already name-dropped several tantalizing prospects that may banner the 2023 team: fresh PBA phenom Kiefer Ravena, and TNT scorer Roger Pogoy, as well as UAAP high-flyers Ricci Rivero and Thirdy Ravena. But on the sidelines an aging Junemar Fajardo still awaits his number to be called, along with a motivated Terrence Romeo hellbent on proving his critics wrong and justifying every ounce of his signature shoe deal with Peak.
All eyes are now on the coaching staff and administrators to create a dynamic program that scales well within the allotted six years without the added drama brought about by the PBA and the SBP. Let’s just hope we also have a better coach by then.
The PBA is back
The oldest basketball league in the country finally returns, but not without its cuts and bruises. Despite the taint of controversy plaguing this offseason, the PBA has managed to get off the ground by making key decisions that will hopefully bode well for fans in the future: the ouster of Chito Narvasa as commissioner may bring hope for many a disillusioned fan, but the damage on the league’s competitive parity has already been done, and the country still waits for Kia’s “unconventional” offense to catch up with the rest of the league.
The PBA’s whistle-happy officiating has also been a cause for concern—similar to the UAAP controversy regarding league-mandated and advertising-driven time outs, the slower pace of play has turned a lot of fans sour, citing a dip in overall excitement and level of entertainment in the league, as evidenced by middling attendance in the previously sought-after Christmas games in the Philippine Arena. Coupled with hilariously transient team names and stars, the PBA seems to offer no level of stability other than the promise of a well-attended Ginebra game—and this may be a hurdle for fans looking for another team to root for other than its Never Say Die counterparts.
Still, there’s much to look forward to this season: will the Beermen run over the entire league on he backs of their two-headed monster in Fajardo and new draftee Christian Standhardinger (which again may cause competitive parity problems in the future)? Will top draft pick Kiefer Ravena sustain his notable PBA start and lead NLEX into the limelight? Can Meralco finally overcome their demons and fulfill their championship hopes on the backs of Baser Amer, Chris Newsome, Mike Tolomia, and Reynel “Splash Papa” Hugnatan? Is this Mark Caguioa’s final run for Ginebra? Is Scottie Thompson joining Gilas?
So many questions, so little viewership. Here’s to hoping the PBA can go back to its roots and achieve basketball greatness embraced by fans everywhere.
Blue Eagle domination
I might be a tad biased, but I have always believed that the Ateneo Blue Eagles played the most beautiful basketball among all leagues in the entire country. Now, hear me out.
With fans embracing superstardom in social media, it’s refreshing to see a ball-movement heavy team with a clear “next man up” attitude when it comes to minutes. Even its so called go-to-guy Thirdy Ravena is dominant not because of his scoring talents but because of his propensity to grab rebounds and shuttle passes for other players. In an isolation-heavy offense, there is no way people like Isaac Go, Vince Tolentino, or Matt Nieto to get any attention because of their limitations, but Coach Tab Baldwin has found a way to unearth all of these hidden talents (and they needed every inch of it) to beat the defending champions led by the most dominating player in UAAP’s history.
It’s a shame that DLSU unceremoniously imploded after the loss, snatching a best-of-three matchup for Season 81 from fans—with Ben Mbala suddenly announcing his pro career in Mexico along with Aldin Ayo’s alleged departure from the program; but with rumors of Tim Cone and Richard del Rosario’s involvement in the green nation, there may be hope for another Blue-Green Battle come next year’s finals.
Revitalized NBA frachises
The Lakers, Celtics, Sixers, and Knicks are in again. I mean, not all of them are exactly on a winning pace, but today definitely isn’t the worst time to be a mass-market bandwagon fan.
Fresh of the searing criticism against Lonzo Ball’s unique yet horrendously inefficient offense, the Lakers have found their savior in Kyle “Kuz Kontrol” Kuzma, who has been putting up solid numbers after being inserted in the starting lineup, particularly from long-range. The Lakers’ inability to commit to other talents Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson might cause more distractions in the future, but again this is as close to a watchable or exciting season you’ll ever see from an 11-22 team.
Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid’s recent matchup signals the arrival of a new breed of NBA center, once that seems to defy the barriers previously put up for more traditional big men such as size, girth, and muscle, and substituting that with skill, shooting, and swagger. Watching long-armed unicorns blocking each other and awkwardly falling down together brings back memories of former greats Alonzo Mourning and Shaq, even if they’re operating further from the rim than the legends ever did.
And the Celtics. Man. I’m betting on someone making a twitter account of Gordon Hayward’s Walking Boot to be a major sorry come April 2018. You just know someone will make a big deal out of this.
Almost a UP bonfire
Bright Akhuetie is in, Ben Mbala is out. This year: 6-8. Next year: 14-0. We can dream, can’t we?