Jun 18, 2020

PABL: Part of ECJ's gift to PBA, Philippine basketball

FOR Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco's PBA legacy, there's more than just the winning tradition of his ball clubs.

There were many more.

One that really helped a lot of players - not just the NCC and SMC ballers - and impacted on Philippine basketball as a whole was the Philippine Amateur Basketball League, one of his programs upon his appointment by President Ferdinand Marcos as project director for basketball in the early 80s.

The PBA itself benefited from the league which served as the jump-off point for collegiate players dreaming to make the pros.

"When he was appointed as project director for basketball, the first project was the revival of amateur basketball in view of the demise of the MICAA," said Serge Alombro, among SMC officials then attending the fledgling league.

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Willie Pearson, Sonny Cabatu, Totoy Marquez, Joey Loyzaga, Leo Austria and Leo Isaac were among the PABL pioneers, and they were seasoned warriors when they set foot in the pro league.

"SMC ang major sponsor nun. May pa-raffle pa na isang truck na beer at isang kotse," said San Miguel Beer governor Robert Non on his PABL days recollection.

"There was a Chairman's Cup, and it's in honor of the chairman and CEO of San Miguel Corporation," Alombro remembered.

No less than 37 collegiate and commercial teams took part in the league's dry run in 1983, with the La Salle Green Archers emerging as champs.

Towards the end of the year, 16 teams officially founded the PABL, with the Arellano Flaming Arrows, led by Pearson and Loyzaga, winning the crown.

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For decades, practically all the PBA players honed their skills in the PABL (later renamed PBL) before graduating to the pros.

And several ball clubs also took the PABL/PBL as launch pad to their journey to the PBA. Current PBA teams NorthPort (Harbour Centre), Blackwater and Rain or Shine had their PBL lineages. And there was the Tanduay-Red Bull rivalry carried over from PBL to PBA.

The PABL was also a precious gift of Mr. ECJ to Philippine basketball. (SB)