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The Greatest PBA Backcourt Tandems Of All Time

Will The Blur-The Bro combo ever crack this list?
by Jay P. Mercado | Apr 4, 2018
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The trade has finally been consummated. Terrence Romeo, the flashy, 5'11" guard dynamo of the GlobalPort Batang Pier, and the fifth overall pick of the 2013 rookie draft, has finally moved to the TNT KaTropa after going through a couple of revisions in the exchange deal. Romeo, perhaps the most prolific guard in the league today, is joining his Gilas teammate and mentor, Jayson Castro, to form an explosive and maybe, the most lethally offensive backcourt combo today.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes has already stated that the Castro-Romeo duo of TNT may end up becoming one of the greatest backcourt pairs in league history, at least, on paper. It remains to be seen how these two players would help the floundering campaign of the KaTropa, whose last championship dated back to the 2015 Commissioner's Cup. The sure thing is that this pair will give opposing head coaches a migraine in trying to contain the prolific duo.

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With this development, FHM reviews the past backcourt partnerships in the PBA and lists down the greatest guards ever to play together in the backline.

7. Alex CabagnotChris Ross (San Miguel)

5 titles in 5 years (2013–present)

This is the only active pair today, and they're bound to go up further in the rankings if they continue to produce titles together. Cabagnot and Ross seemed like an unlikely duo when the latter was shipped by GlobalPort to the then-Petron Blaze Boosters for Denok Miranda. But the partnership bloomed under Coach Leo Austria, making them one of the best two-way backcourt tandems in the PBA. Cabagnot developed his defensive game further, while Ross improved his offense significantly, making them a pesky and extremely dangerous combo. The pair are still good for a couple of seasons and who knows, an SMB Grand Slam this season may put this lethal tandem in the Top 3.

6. Jimmy Alapag–Jayson Castro (TNT)

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5 titles in 7 years (2008-2014)

Jay Washington was becoming a future superstar for the TNT Tropang Texters after earning a Mythical First Team recognition in 2007. Fans wondered when then Coach Chot shipped him to San Miguel for the rights to the latter's 2008 third overall pick, using this to draft Castro. At that time, the Texters had Alapag, Ren Ren Ritualo, Mark Cardona, then this pure slasher that may have become a wasted pick without a reliable outside jumper. But with Alapag serving as mentor, the collaboration produced six titles. Reyes oftentimes used the pair, despite being severely handicapped in length, during crunch time and they delivered most of the time. In the Philippine and Commissioner's Cup in 2011, the two shared Finals MVP honors, a testament to the solid partnership that spilled over to the Gilas national team.

5. Jayjay HelterbrandMark Caguioa (Ginebra)

6 titles in 16 years (2001-2017)

The Ginebra franchise was never wanting when it came to quality guards, with no less than Robert Jaworski, Sr. as its biggest name. But they struggled a bit when the Big J ran for the Senate in 1998, leaving only Bal David as their reliable small guy. Team consultant Ron Jacobs brought in Helterbrand after playing one MBA game with the Batangas Blades in 2000, then completed the puzzle by drafting a then-unknown Caguioa the year after. Almost instantly, Ginebra became a championship contender, cracking the Finals in the duo's first conference, losing the All-Filipino to San Miguel, 4-2. The Fast (Helterbrand) and the Furious (Caguioa) formed one of the most exciting pairs in the league with their ability to score in transition and produce points as quick as they moved.


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4. Hector Calma–Samboy Lim (San Miguel/NCC)

10 titles in 10 years (1985–1994)

It's not difficult to understand why Calma and Lim became a very successful pair in the PBA. Before collaborating to win nine titles for the Beermen, they already won one in the 1985 Open Conference for the guest national team. Couple that with their national team success in the 1985 Jones Cup and Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC), Coach Norman Black never had it so easy. Except for Lim's frequent injuries, it was almost impossible to stop the two in the offensive. Calma would bring down the ball in transition and feed his partner at the perfect time for a dunk or an easy lay-in, or when the Beermen set it up, The Director would almost always find The Skywalker open for an easy deuce from either the long court or inside the paint. While the Beermen also had reliable backcourt players like Ricardo Brown, Ato Agustin, and later, Allan Caidic, it was the Calma-Lim combo that represented the face of the franchise backcourt, especially during the late '80s and early '90s.

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3. Johnny Abarrientos–Jojo Lastimosa (Alaska/Pop Cola)

9 titles in 10 years (1993–2002)

Abarrientos turned out to be the most important piece in the Alaska Grand Slam puzzle, and yet, he couldn't have done it without his backcourt partner Lastimosa and his clutch ways. Alaska's first title happened in the 1991 Third Conference with Jolas in the fold. When the Flying A came in, the backcourt duo won nine more titles for the franchise, including eight of 12 conferences at stake from 1994 to 1998. They cemented their collaborative greatness by being selected in the Mythical First Team in 1996 and 1998, and the 1998 Centennial Team that played in the Bangkok Asian Games. Both won separate Finals MVP honors in 1996 and made the Aces the undisputed team of the '90s. Coach Tim Cone didn't have to worry during crunch time, as he had either Johnny or Jolas willing to take and make the last shot.

2. Bernie Fabiosa–Atoy Co (Crispa/Great Taste)

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14 titles in 10 years (1975–1984, and 1987)

They are the winningest backcourt tandem of all time, sharing 13 championships with the fabled Redmanizers from 1975 to 1984. It's easy enough to pencil them at the top, but Crispa's roster was so talented that they remained top contenders even with one of these players was in the injured list. But there's no denying how phenomenal this pair was when playing together. Fabiosa was their best passer, and Co was the best recipient. The Redmanizers didn't need to consume the previous 25-second shot clock as The Sultan of Swipe would easily find Co for an open jumper or would make a pass to The Fortune Cookie and slash the paint for their patented give-and-go. It wasn't uncommon to see TJ (or Tough Job as christened by the late Penggoy Pengson) Fabiosa and Co spearhead the break with the former speeding down the court and the latter at the flanks. They shared one more title with the Great Taste Coffeemakers in the 1987 All-Filipino before hanging up their sneakers in 1988 (Co) and 1991 (Fabiosa).

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1. Robert Jaworski, Sr.–Francis Arnaiz (Toyota/Ginebra)

9 titles in 11 years (1975–1986)

One will be hard-pressed to find anyone toppling the Jaworski-Arnaiz tandem at the top of the perch, even in the years to come, when they've been called Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo, and several superlatives that showcased their worth as the greatest PBA backcourt pair of all time. This collaboration started when they were still playing for the Meralco Reddykilowatts team in the MICAA, transitioning to the Komatsu Comets, Toyota, and finally with Gilbey's Gin/Ginebra. Together, they were responsible for transforming the franchise to perennial title contenders starting in 1984 and the most popular PBA franchise ever starting 1985. There was no pair that knew each other both inside and outside the court better than the two—Jaworski being the best passer ever in the PBA transforming the assist into an art, and Arnaiz consummating with the all-important points, even without looking at each other. The two have remained as popular as evidenced by Arnaiz, who's based in Sacramento, watching a recent Ginebra game with the Big J and receiving one of the heartiest applauses ever given to any pair of PBA legends.

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Perhaps, we will see Castro and Romeo cracking this list soon. While Castro is turning 32 this year, he remains the premier point guard in the PBA today. Romeo, 26, may find himself taking over Castro's position in the near future. But for a couple of more seasons, we will see how this duo pans out in bringing back the luster of the TNT franchise.


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