In 1993, the late Commissioner Jun Bernardino changed the format of the league by replacing the the Open and Reinforced Conferences with the Commissioner's Cup and the Governors' Cup. There wasn’t much of a difference except that both tournaments featured imports with height handicaps—the former though allowed more latitude.
The format was scrapped in 2003 to give way to the Invitational Conference, where visiting teams took part. A season after, the league, through Commissioner Noli Eala, decided to conduct two conferences instead of three. It was only in 2011 when the PBA re-adopted the three-tournament format and the eventual return of the two import-laden series.
With its 2017 edition about to start this Friday, FHM rounds up the best imports to ever set foot on the court of the Commissioner’s Cup.
Honorable mentions: Chris King (Gordon’s Gin Boars), Jeff Ward (San Miguel Beermen), Terquin Mott (San Miguel Beermen)
Bowles was supposed to come back for his fifth tour of duty, this time with the TNT KaTropa, before the team opted to cut him loose a day before the tilt opens. Ironically, the 28-year-old prevented Talk 'N Text's bid for a fourth title in five conferences in 2012, while playing for Tim Cone and the B-Meg Llamados. Bowles sank two pressure-packed free throws with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 76 and send the match into overtime. There was no denying him in overtime as he took over in the stretch. Apart from winning the Best Import plum that tournament, Bowles's nerves of steel catapulted Bowles to this exclusive list.
The 1993 Best Import possessed a fit form like that of the next entry, suiting up for the Swift Mighty Meaty Hotdogs. An intimidating inside presence among reinforcements with a 6'5" height handicap, Thompkins' long limbs, leaping ability, and menacing snarl were more than enough reasons for opponents to think twice before penetrating. A gifted defensive player with a short fuse, he powered Swift to a 4-2 demolition of the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs in the Finals.
One of the most versatile imports to have ever played in the league, Dozier's athletic and lean built was perfect for his do-it-all role with the Alaska Aces, then under Luigi Trillo. No one expected the Aces to go far that conference; Dozier turned out to be the puzzle that Barangay Ginebra San Miguel couldn't solve in the Finals. He was named Best Import and the Aces steamrolled Ginebra, 3-0. It also gave the franchise enough of reason to bring him back a few seasons after, although Alaska only placed runner-up to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in 2016.
The dreadlocks said it all—"You can't get your way when I'm around" was Davis' message to everyone who dared mess with him. One of the most dominant 6'7" reinforcements of all time, Davis not only was an offensive beast in the paint for Cone and Alaska, he was also the perfect last man on defense. Cone simply drew their opponents towards Davis, the efforts of the opposing team ending in futility. Soon after, Davis became the standard of what Commissioner's Cup imports should be.
Old-timers would always pencil the '70s and '80s as the decades that saw the best PBA imports of all time. There was one exception that came out in the next 10 years, and Redfield would probably be ranked as one of the most complete reinforcements ever. Basically a Swiss Army knife on both ends of the floor, Redfield did everything. While many remember him for powering the Purefoods to the 1994 Commissioner's Cup championship, his most memorable highlight was his miracle 30-foot, buzzer-beating, tie-breaking, three-point shot against Ginebra that led the Formula Shell Zoom Masters to the 1996 Finals versus Alaska. It also helped that Redfield captured the Best Import crown twice, making him the best ever among Commissioner's Cup reinforcements.