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The Best Ever: San Miguel Beer's All-Time Starting Five

The only remaining founding member in the PBA has a long list of great names to choose from.
by Raul Maningat | Sep 21, 2015
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The San Miguel Beermen is the only remaining founding ball club in the PBA (established in 1975). And through five decades, and amid sporting a variety of San Miguel Corporation banners, which includes unintimidating names like Magnolia Quench Plus and Magnolia Cheese, the team has won 21 titles—the most in league history. SMB is also one of four franchises to win a PBA Grand Slam (nabbing theirs in 1989). Their track record in Philippine basketball is simply incredible.

This success made it doubly hard for us to piece together the latest entry in our Best Ever series, wherein we pick the all-time starting five of popular basketball teams. The number of great players employed by the franchise over its 40-year existence is ridiculously high. So, in choosing just five from the team’s massive vault of legendary names, we left out a few stars who really shined for San Miguel during their respective tenures.

But hey, we’re standing by our decision to name the players below as SMB’s best ever. Take a look and feel free to give your take.


C – DANNY ILDEFONSO

With his muscular frame to push around his adversaries in a rebounding battle and a textbook “up and under” to get buckets, there’s no question how major a force Ildefonso was at the center position for the Beermen. He’s the indestructible Demolition Man of the PBA, for crying out loud.

Plus, his midrange game never hurt his reputation as he’d beaten many of his rivals with the help of his reliable J. The pride of Urdaneta, Pangasinan’s penchant for dunking the basketball and doing the “raise the roof” gesture made him one of the most fun-to-watch players of his era but his substance outweighs the flair. In 2000, he was grabbing 8.8 rebounds per contest and scoring 15 points a night en route to his first of two consecutive MVP seasons. His clutch-ness was top-class too as he garnered three Finals MVP trophies and helped SMB reap eight PBA crowns.

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It wasn’t easy favoring the recently-retired Danny I on this list over June Mar Fajardo as the latter has won PBA accolades as much as Heneral Luna has been praised on social media. The deciding factor that swayed us was Ildefonso’s nearly decade-long serviceable stint with SMB against June Mar’s awesome-yet-still-budding career with the team. The Kraken has only been in the league for three seasons, he’s got a lot more to prove while Danny I is, in our opinion, already a legend.    

Runners-up: Fajardo, Yves Dignadice, Abet Guidaben

Career Highlights with SMB:
-    2-time MVP
-    5-time Best Player of the Conference
-    3-time Finals MVP
-    8-time PBA Champion
-    8-time PBA All-Star


PF – RAMON FERNANDEZ

The man widely considered as the GOAT of the PBA, Fernandez spent the final seven years of his playing days with San Miguel. Donning the Beermen jersey from 1988 until 1994, he led the team to multiple championships, including their '89 Grand Slam. A year prior, he won his record-setting fourth MVP award after playing the first two conferences of the season with Purefoods and the final one with the Beermen.

El Presidente is arguably the most versatile player in Philippine basketball history. He played more like a point-forward rather than a traditional slotman who stays in the low block, confined to just doing big man-like things. The pride of Maasin, Southern Leyte was so good he could probably play all five positions impeccably. As a power forward, he was a nightmare match-up for anyone.

Although his SMB numbers failed to match his 1984 godly averages of 27.8 ppg, 11rpg and 9.9 apg, that unbelievable stat line should paint you a picture of what Fernandez was capable of doing on the hardcourt. One could say he was the Beermen’s retro version of LeBron James, only smarter and approaching the last chapter of his glorious career.

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Runners-up: Arwind Santos, Nelson Asaytono

Career Highlights with SMB:
-    1988 PBA MVP
-    1989 Grand Slam Champion
-    4-time Mythical First Team member
-    7-time PBA Champion
-    PBA’s 25 Greatest Players


SF – ALLAN CAIDIC

Once upon a time, one of basketball’s greatest shooters ever, donned a San Miguel jersey.

In 1993, three years after Caidic nailed 17 triples and scored 79 points to set the PBA’s all-time single game scoring record, his services were hired by the Beermen. The storied franchise was lucky enough to land the extraordinary marksman when he was still close to the peak of his powers.

Three seasons removed from receiving his lone MVP diadem, the former UE Red Warrior was still a killer from deep, most evident in the 1994 Asian Games wherein he was named to the all-tournament team after finishing as the tourney’s top scorer. He was no longer the scoring monster of the Presto Tivoli squad, who got 57, 68, and 79 buckets on a hot shooting night, but he was good enough to put up 45 markers in his best scoring game with the Beermen in ‘94.

The firepower that Caidic provided for San Miguel in the mid '90s aided the team in winning two PBA crowns—that and the fact that we probably will never see a marksman as good as he was are enough for us to rank The Triggerman in the SMB top five.

Runners-up: Danny Siegle, Nick Belasco

Career highlights with SMB:
-    2-time PBA champion
-    1995 Governor’s Cup Best Player of the Conference
-    1995 Scoring champion
-    1995 Mythical First Team member
-    2-time Mythical Second Team member
-    1993 All-Star Game MVP
-    PBA’s 25 Greatest Players


SG – SAMBOY LIM

Things got very tricky in this ranking. Samboy never won an MVP trophy yet we chose him over 1992 Most Valuable Player Ato Agustin, who in the same year spearheaded the Beermen’s Commissioner’s Cup title-run. Our preference of the Skywalker over the Atom Bomb mainly stems from the former’s game, which resonates more than most of his peers, including Agustin's. Lim was simply ahead of his time, in terms of the moves he made and his athleticism, thus his high-flying moniker. Plus, Ato was just a rookie watching from the sidelines as his senpai Samboy played a primary role in San Miguel’s 1989 Grand Slam campaign—probably the franchise's crowning achievement.

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Only a select few in Philippine Basketball can match Avelino “Samboy” Lim’s athletic gifts. Aside from his “puwedeng mag-kape sa ere” hang-time, the Letran College product’s crossover also speaks volumes about his greatness as an athlete. The move was so deadly he could leave his defenders, even imports, in a flash before gliding in the air gracefully for the lay-in. He played all out too, leaving his heart out on the floor in every game. This boosted his popularity just a notch below Jawo-level but ultimately led to an injury-riddled career. In full capacity, though, the Skywalker was untouchable.

Runner-up: Ato Agustin

Career highlights:
-    1989 Grand Slam Champion
-    2-time Mythical Second Team member
-    4-time PBA All-Star
-    1990 PBA All-Star Game MVP
-    PBA’s 25 Greatest Players


PG – HECTOR CALMA

Perhaps, no point guard can command the attention and respect of a talent-laden, ego-packed starting lineup better than Hector “The Director” Calma. In the star-studded SMB team of the late '80s, which featured Fernandez, Samboy, and the legendary scorer Ricardo Brown, The Director maintained his position as the squad’s undisputed floor general.

He made sure the offense ran seamlessly through him, diligently designating his superstar teammates in locations where he could set them up for optimum scoring opportunities. During the games’ most crucial junctures, Calma lived up to his name, stabilizing the Beermen's attack and making the kind of decisions every coach desires from his point-man.

From 1987 to SMB’s Grand Slam season, the three-time Mythical First Team point guard steered the San Miguel ship to six out of a possible seven PBA crowns.

Runners-up: Ricky Brown, Franz Pumaren, Olsen Racela

Career Highlights:
-    3-time Mythical First Team member
-    1989 Grand Slam Champion
-    PBA’s 25 Greatest Players


Do you have a better SMB All-Time Five in mind? Tell us through the comments section below!

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