Shaq said it best: “I’m tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok.”
Always the funny man, the 7-foot-1 member of the NBA’s 75 greatest players list is correct.
Sport is entertainment and entertainment means dollars.
The Philippine Basketball Association right now is in a quandary. Founded in 1975, the PBA is Asia’s oldest pro basketball league and ranks as the world’s second oldest (next to the NBA, born in 1946).
The PBA has a money problem. Sure, the league has 12 ball clubs owned by the nation’s largest conglomerates. But, no thanks to the PBA’s salary cap, some are not being paid enough which leads to the exodus.
Kiefer Ravena. His younger brother Thirdy. There’s Kobe Paras. How about Ray Parks Jr.? Then the Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. There’s Kemark Carino and the 6-foot-4 Fil-Am who was supposedly one of the hottest prospects for the PBA, Dwight Ramos.
These eight athletes are no ordinary names. Many of them are UAAP heartthrobs with a torrent of social media followers. Kobe Paras, the son of Benjie, is a superstar-in-the-making. All eight of them are not playing in Manila but in Japan.
It’s called the B.League and, while founded recently in 2016, it has aggressively recruited big names from the international market.
Simply put, the Japanese pro league is offering our stars (in particular, the rookies) double or triple the money they’d earn if they were to suit up as an NLEX or Barangay Ginebra point guard.
Take Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks Jr. They are two-time UAAP MVPs whom we’d love to see playing in Araneta Coliseum or the Mall of Asia arena. Instead, the Iloilo-born Ravena is not playing for the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters but for Japan B League’s San-en NeoPhoenix.
Bobby Ray Parks played with Blackwater Elite and TNT in Manila before heading north to suit up for the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.
Long-term, this exodus of top caliber talent will continue to be a PBA problem. The world has turned borderless. This pandemic has changed our outlook—even how we can quickly buy a product from China via Lazada or Shopee and have it delivered to our doorstep in 12 days.
Same with our players. While before they were stuck in the Philippine archipelago, who would stop the pro leagues from South Korea or China from offering P1 million per month when SMB can only give P450,000?
The other day, I heard NBA Commissioner Adam Silver say that 25 percent of the NBA players are not native Americans. One out of every four in the NBA today is a foreigner.
Globalization has created a borderless planet. There is no preventing our talents from leaving and going to our Asian neighbors or Europe or America.
Money, money, money. The PBA ball clubs have to offer more. The problem is, I’m unsure about the 46-year-old league. And if the PBA’s reputation and following diminishes, so will the incentive of companies to spend more.
It’s all about content. Is the PBA able to continue offering entertainment that excites and energizes?