The Coming Decline of Philippine Basketball

Now that the Philippine Basketball Association’s commitment to the National Team has ended, and it will not be sending its players to major international competitions again, I expect a further decline in the quality of Philippine Basketball in the next coming years.

Like it or not, the PBA plays a big role on where the quality of Philippine Basketball goes, because it is where our best players are in right now, and where our best players will eventually be. So any changes it does will likely trickle down to the mindset of the colleges and amateur players in the country.

‘Shift in Focus’
The problem with not playing in international competitions, is that it will shift the focus of the PBA from COMPETITION, to ENTERTAINMENT. And unfortunately for us, those two do not compliment each other. What is good for one, will be bad for the other.

Free from the thoughts of whether its players will be competitive internationally, the PBA will go on tweaking its rules to cater more to the fans, at the expense of its competitiveness in international competitions.

The PBA will seek to keep changing more its rules to ensure that its players gets its basket on a silver platter,
because it “looks good” to the fans.

It has already started. The recent tweak in the rules to eliminate the handcheck rule has resulted in players like Arwind Santos suddenly improving his scoring averages in leaps and bounds, only to have him end up as ineffective in international tournaments.

‘Historical Precedent’
The PBA had closed its doors before to international competititions from the year of its founding in 1975, to 1990, and in that period, we have seen a great decline in the quality of Philippine basketball.

From having many shooters like Atoy Co, Bogs Adornado, Freddie Hubalde (all over 6′, at a time when 6′ Centers were the norm in college), we ended up with only one in Allan Caidic.

During that time, the PBA also drastically changed its rules, making it out of touch with the rest of the world. Who could forget that “Referee-Must-Touch-The-Ball-During-Inbound” rule that effectively killed the fastbreak in the PBA, and turned its teams into slow-breaking teams?

‘False Popularity’
Ironically, that time was also when the PBA reached its highest popularity in terms of attendances and ratings. But I would attribute that more to hype, than anything else.

By claiming to be the only professional league in Asia, playing with rules similar to that of the NBA, and having players labeled as “professionals”, the PBA suddenly could claim its players to be nearer to the standards of the NBA, without the benefit of actual competitions.

Add in a couple of close games in exhibition matches with NBA teams, and the hype was born.

In this age of the internet, though, and globalization of the NBA, I doubt if the PBA can claim to such hypes again to boost its popularity. Fans are smarter now that they know, unlike then.

‘Serious Consequences’
The lack of actual competitions will not only make the league out of touch with the rest of the world in terms of its competitiveness, it will also likely turn off more of hardcore basketball fans.

The focus in fan gratification will only result in a more shallow personality or team based following. In short: It will make the league more ‘jologs’, where people only watch games because they like this player, or that team instead of having a good understanding or appreciation of the game.

I see it more and more catering to a small base fan following. And the more it seeks to satisfy those fans by tweaking the rules, the more it will lose its competitiveness in international basketball.

This decline will be coming at a crucial time, when the rest of the world are starting to like basketball more. The taller Middle Eastern teams have already pushed us out of the top five in Asia, and with the decline more of Philippine basketball, expect our NATURAL rankings to fall back even further.

Instead of trying to keep up with the rest of world, we will be falling further behind.

‘Entertainment League’
At this point, maybe then we can just altogether forget out competitions, and turn the PBA into a “basketball entertainment” league, much like the “World Wresting Entertainment” (WWE), where athletes are not expected to compete, but to entertain. The “Philippine Basketball Entertainment Association” (PBEA) has a nice ring to it. Maybe it should change its name once and for all, and forget all pretenses about having competitive athletes.

We can then stop calling PBA players as “athletes”, but instead we can call them “entertainers”.


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