Manny Pacquiao, best known for his accomplishments inside the boxing ring, has long been known to be a basketball junkie. In fact, he got to fulfill his dream by becoming a pro basketball cager and having played a couple of games for the Kia Picanto/Mahindra Enforcers franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Now, Pacquiao has taken it upon himself to fulfill a dream – a league that can band together basketball talent who have been left out in the cold. The turnover rate of players in the PBA has been alarmingly increasing with most either giving up or looking for opportunities overseas. There are some who have consoled themselves with local leagues, being paid handsomely though not consistently.
Now, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) hopes to serve as a resolve—particularly for players who are still hoping to get noticed. The MPBL is technically a league of hope, an ambitious gathering of hoop aficionados that took a while to get going.
Kicking off the dream
The MPBL officially got rolling late January 2018 with ten teams joining the fray. Some have compared it to the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), which ran from Mar. 7, 1998 to Jul. 26, 2002. The difference is that instead of companies, local government units are the ones handling the teams.
For the first season, the participating teams are the Bataan Defenders, Batangas Tanduay Athletics, Bulacan Kuyas, Caloocan Supremos, Imus Bandera, Muntinlupa Cagers, Navotas Clutch, Paranaque Patriots, Quezon City Capitals, and Valenzuela Classics.
So far, a lot of familiar faces have surfaced in the new commercial league. Veteran pros like Gary David, Mark Andaya, Lester Alvarez, Harold Arboleda, Egay Billones and Val Acuna lead the cast players seeing action in the league. Marlou Aquino is also said to be coming out of retirement to join in on the spectacle. There are also amateur players like Teytey Teodoro (JRU Heavy Bombers) and Terrence Mustre (Adamson Soaring Falcons) seeing action—a possible step towards the pros.
A Work in Progress
The league sets lofty goals and means well. However, the hype for the MPBL will need further fine-tuning if it is to last for long. Critics have been skeptical, though Pacquiao begs to differ. In fact, he envisions growth moving forward and dreams of seeing the number of teams balloon to 20.
League commissioner Kenneth Duremdes reveals that several other municipalities from the South are interested and may, in fact, come in next conference. However, these interested parties are likely keeping tabs of the maiden conference before finalizing anything.
As one can see, the current conference called the Anta Rajah Cup has a lot riding on it. The games are underway but the revenue generation part needs a bit of work. Pacquiao did try to kick off the inaugurals with a bang, raffling off 10 motorcycles and a Suzuki Swift on opening day. Obviously, he will need to do more – particularly when it comes to marketing and promotions of the MPBL.
Will it be a fulfilled dream or another nightmare?
Pacquiao has been known to defy the odds even with risks high. The MPBL is no exception though a silver lining exists if the good Senator is able to pull it off.
He wants a league closely similar to the NBA, something the MBA tried to accomplish almost 20 years ago. If he succeeds, Pacquiao is not the only one who wins from the effort but also the displaced players and of course the avid Filipino basketball fans.
Image from the MPBL Facebook page.