Inspired by an episode of NBA Open Court—in which NBA legends Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Isiah Thomas, and Brent Barry took turns putting together the best starting lineups for the different eras of the Association—FHM has taken the task of sorting out the PBA’s greatest cagers ever, according to basketball position and the time period of their dominance.
To make this endeavor a more well-rounded discussion, we asked veteran PBA broadcaster Noel Zarate and the homies from Buhay Basket to help us out by sending us their own lists.
Mr. Z has been with the PBA for quite some time now; his input will surely be invaluable. Expect the same from Buhay Basket, the online community is the Filipino basketball fan's online haven. They also have a trendy podcast, Upper B, hosted by Mico Halili, Suzy Gamboa, Renren Ritualo, and Charles Tiu (Season 2’s coming out next year).
Thankfully, the esteemed sportscaster and the Buhay Basket crew were cool with dishing out a much-needed assist.
To unashamedly steal Steve Armstrong’s famous line: Basketball brothers, let’s volt in!
We kick off this series with the league's birth decade, the disco-heavy '70s!
FHM’s All-Decade Starting Five: The '70s (1975-1979)
CENTER – RAMON FERNANDEZ
In the first five seasons of the PBA, Fernandez wasn’t yet producing the incredible numbers he would display in the coming decade, but his all-around brilliance was already on the brink of bursting out. When he did, he put up an across-the-board stat line on a nightly basis. The Southern Leyte native was selected as the Mythical Five center four out of a possible five times during the '70s, making him the undisputed best PBA big of that era.
POWER FORWARD – PHILIP CEZAR
Back in the day, the league’s original tapal king is the only guy who comes close to Fernandez in terms of being an agile and skilled big man (much like how Bill Russell was to Wilt Chamberlain). On defense, Cezar might even be better than his highly-talented rival. The three Mythical Five feathers on his cap during the '70s ('76, '78, and '79) is a testament of how tremendous he was in the paint.
SMALL FORWARD – BOGS ADORNADO
Due to a knee injury, Adornado had only a couple of marvelous seasons in the '70s. But in those two campaigns, he was unstoppable. In the ’75 and ’76 seasons, the hot-shooting Crispa forward won back-to-back season MVP trophies as he burned the competition with his superb shooting. Winning the MVP plum twice gave Bogs the edge in our ranking over another great player, his teammate, Freddie Hubalde.
SHOOTING GUARD - ATOY CO
Like Fernandez, Co made the Mythical Five four times in the '70s. He was that period’s most dangerous shooter, which culminated in his 1979 MVP season. The "Fortune Cookie" was so deadly from the outside that, for him, pulling up for a jumper on a 2-on-1 fastbreak was as easy as going up for an uncontested layup.
We also took into consideration the two shooting guards that were really tearing it up in this era. They are two of the PBA’s scariest gunners of all time, Francis Arnaiz and Daredevil Danny Florencio. Go ask your titos about 'em.
POINT GUARD - ROBERT JAWORSKI
Completing this list is the 1978 PBA MVP, and perhaps the most popular cager our pro league has ever produced. The Big J was a 6'1" pure point guard who can barrel his way to the basket and decently shoot from the outside. He’s also an exceptional rebounder and a lockdown defender. He never showcased his vast array of talents better than during this period. Although he’d become more popularly known as a Ginebra icon later in his career, Jawo was unquestionably the PBA’s most feared floor general during his stint with Toyota in the late '70s.
Noel and Buhay Basket's Starting Fives
Kuya Noel’s first five is slightly different. He cited Manny Paner as the best rebounder of the decade as well as the disco era’s top center.
Noel Z’s starting five: C – Manny Paner, PF – Cezar, SF – Adornado, SG – Co, PG – Jaworski
Buhay Basket's starting five : C – Fernandez, PF – Cezar, SF – Adornado, SG – Co, PG – Jaworski
Buhay Basket completely agrees with us. Apir!