When the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) opened shop in 1998, they were immediately touted the biggest rivals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Not only were they identified with media giant, ABS-CBN, they also brought in PBA four-time Most Valuable Player Ramon Fernandez as its first Commissioner. And because their teams represented various cities in the country, it caught the immediate fancy of the locals in the said provinces.
Several big named players from the pros crossed over to the MBA, instantly lending credibility to the league. It became such a threat to the PBA that the then 23-year old league relaxed its eligibility rules to ensure the best amateur players joined.
Unfortunately, the league closed shop in 2002, thereby giving its major counterpart an abundance of talented players for the 2003 rookie draft. FHM lists down the Top 5 players to come out of the MBA and succeed in the PBA.
The Junkyard Dawg played two seasons in the MBA (1999 and 2000), first with the Negros Slashers, then with the Pasig-Rizal Pirates, before joining the San Miguel Beermen as their direct hire in 2001. A rebounding demon, Peña didn’t disappoint when Coach Ron Jacobs saw his potential to fortify the Beermen’s slot further. He was part of the 2006 All-Defensive Team and a two-time member of the Mythical First Team in 2005 and 2007. Peña was an integral part of San Miguel’s successful run in the early 2000s as the immovable object inside the paint.
The H-Bomb was an average player in the MBA, suiting up for the Laguna Lakers in 1999 then. But when he joined the PBA as a direct hire of the Tanduay Rhum Masters, many already knew he was a perfect fit. Hatfield made up for his lack of talent with sheer hardwork and drive to succeed. He helped the Coca Cola Tigers win two championships and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2003. He also captured two titles with Ginebra in a colorful career highlighted by what probably was the best interview of all-time in PBA broadcast history.
Helterbrand, nicknamed The Fast to Mark Caguioa's The Furious, actually had a one-game career with the MBA. He played for the Batangas Blades once in 2000, then joined the PBA as Ginebra’s direct hire. He backstopped Bal David at the point, before collaborating with Caguioa to form one of the most popular and feared backcourt tandems in league history. A member of the 2007 and 2009 national team, Helterbrand won the 2009 MVP award, serving as the team’s leader while Caguioa was injured during that period. To date, he remains to be one of the most popular Ginebra players ever, helping the franchise win five championships.
Who would have thought this virtually unknown player from FEU would do well? He didn’t exactly have a stellar MBA career with the Cebu Gems as many felt he was undersized to be a center. He later joined the PBA in 2004, drafted third overall by the FedEx Express, before being traded to the Purefoods Chunkee Giants in 2005. This was where The Pinoy Sakuragi found his home, raking in eight championships, including the coveted 2014 Grandslam, as well as individual accomplishments—Finals MVP twice, Defensive Player of the Year three times, and a member of the elite PBA 40 Greatest Players of all time. Pingris was also an important piece of Gilas 2.0, serving as one of the team’s emotional leaders in winning the silver medal in the 2013 and 2015 FIBA-Asia tournaments.
When The Thriller joined the MBA to play for the Nueva Ecija Patriots in 1999, the news generated so much excitement to the team and the locals in this rice-producing Central Luzon province. Miller was one of the most exciting players out of the NCAA with the Letran Knights, dazzling everyone with his dribbling wizardry and a variety of moves. Red Bull head coach Yeng Guiao didn't think twice drafting him as the top overall pick of the 2001 PBA draft. He went on to help his team win the first two of his four career titles in 2001 and 2002. Miller captured the MVP plum twice, in 2002 and 2007, making him part of an elite list of nine players who have won the award more than once.