Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Suggestions On How To Make Philippine Basketball More Exciting To Watch

We Filipinos are passionate for basketball as much as other people in the world love football or soccer. I even consider this as our religion, our de facto national sport. However, with the changing times, our national tradition to the sport seems slowly becoming obsolete in my perspective. Thus, I will give to you my suggestions that will make this sport more exciting to watch in the foreseeable future.

Changing The Format Of The PBA

As we all know, the Philippine Basketball Association is the premier professional basketball league in the country. Its three-conference format (Philippine, Commissioner's and Governor's Cups) makes us watch basketball all-year long. However, with our current obligations with FIBA, not to mention Gilas Pilipinas going stronger than ever as time goes by, there will be a possibility that the season will extend up to the next year (just like what happened in the 2019 season), which will definitely affect the scheduling of its subsequent seasons.

To maintain the one-season-per-year schedule, the possible solution for this is to change the current format. My suggestion would be to split the twelve teams into two conferences of six teams each, similar to the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Let's say we will call these two conferences National and Metropolitan. 

To make it more exciting, a complex set of rules will be implemented. The National Conference will retain the usual PBA hybrid rules, but the Metropolitan Conference will adapt the old Metroball rules of the now-defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA). Yes, we will see again the 23-second shot-clock, the free three, the Blitz period and other unique rules that formed the fast-paced gameplay of the old league. This format will be similar to that of Major League Baseball (MLB), wherein the American League operates under a designated hitter rule, while the National League does not.

Since the three-conference format will be abolished, we will never see the usual All-Filipino and reinforced tournaments. However, tournament scheduling will be on a four-year cycle where we see an all-Filipino Philippine Cup played on odd-numbered years, a reinforced Commissioner's Cup on an even-numbered common year, and an invitational Governor's Cup on an even-numbered leap year. 

On the Commissioner's Cup, as usual, each team will require one import to bolster their ranks, with the import being no taller than 6'10". Meanwhile, on the revamped Governor's Cup, each conference will invite four foreign teams to play alongside the twelve reinforced teams with two imports. One must be 6'10" and below while the other must be 6'5" and below. The lowest performing teams from China's CBA, South Korea's KBL, Japan's B-League and Australia's NBL will be eligible to enter. 

In the elimination round of every tournament, each team will play against another team in their conference three times, and a team on the other conference twice, each team playing 27 games. The top four seeds of each conference will play in the playoff round which will be played under NBA rules. The National champion and the Metropolitan champion will then face off in the finals for the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.

As for hiring players, all full-blooded and half-Filipino players will be eligible for the PBA Draft, while foreigners (that includes those who are born in the Philippines), naturalized Filipinos and players with 1/4 or 1/8 Filipino blood will be considered as imports, will go to a direct hiring process, and will only be eligible to play for Commissioner's and Governor's Cups.

In the event of an expansion, the PBA must admit two expansion teams, one filling each conference. If that happens, we might see corporate companies like SM and Hapee to join the league in the future.

PBA Going Regional

One of PBA's future plans is to convert all twelve teams from commercial to semi-regional, with each representing a city or province in the Philippines. However, it will be more exciting if all teams go full-regional, with the commercial brands becoming all but mere sponsors like we see on the jerseys of other sports clubs worldwide. This will certainly make a huge fanbase as each city or province will root for their team. This will also enable the weaker teams bolster their fanbases, if not balance the fanbase of each team, since most franchises like Ginebra and Purefoods (Magnolia) have a nationwide following.

As for team naming, it must be the city/province followed by the commercial brand, then the nickname. The logo design should have the city/province name bigger than the commercial brand. The PBA should also not allow teams having the same nickname (i.e. CBA having three "Tigers" and two "Lions" teams, PSL having two and PVL having three "Spikers" teams, MPBL having three "Sardines" teams, etc.) to make each of them unique and distinct from each other.

Alternatively, if the PBA would go on a similar route as that of NPB, with some teams sticking to commercial and others going semi-regional, the rule should be each team must have a regional representation (i.e. Yomiuri Giants representing Tokyo, Hanshin Tigers representing Nishinomiya, etc.). However, it does not necessarily mean each team will have its own home court, but once the PBA increases its revenue, then we may be able to see that.

The Thing About Grand Slam

In the current three-conference format, winning the Philippine, Commissioner's and Governor's Cups is considered a Grand Slam. However, this is one of the numerous misnomers Filipinos have.

Winning three championships is technically called a Triple Crown, similar to that of American horse racing (which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes). A Grand Slam is when a team wins four championships, like in tennis (Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open). My proposed four-tournament cycle will correct that misnomer. 

Winning the two Philippine Cups and the Commissioner's Cup will be the Triple Crown, which will result in the winning team having permanent possession of the Perpetual Trophy. If the team also wins the Governor's Cup, it will be considered a Grand Slam. However, it may be difficult to achieve that feat given the fact that the four teams from China, Korea, Japan and Australia may be stronger than us despite having a poor performance in their home leagues.

In addition to the PBA Grand Slam, there should be an individual Triple Crown and Grand Slam for each Filipino player. For a Triple Crown to be met, one must win a PCCL championship, an MPBL championship, and a PBA championship, regardless of the tournament. Winning the William Jones Cup alongside the aforementioned three will be called a Super Slam. Winning a gold medal in the Asian Games alongside the aforementioned four will be called a Golden Slam

However, unlike tennis that require each player to win all championships in the same year, our version of the individual Grand Slam will follow the formats used in professional wrestling, wherein the player must win the said championships throughout the course of his career.

Promotion-Relegation System and Farm Leagues

Having a promotion-relegation system similar to football/soccer will make Philippine basketball more exciting. For those who don't know, a promotion-relegation system is a process wherein teams of clubs are transferred between tiered divisions based on their performance in a season. If this will be implemented, then we see two promotion-relegation systems.

The first promotion-relegation system will be exclusively used for the PBA and PBA D-League. In this format, two low-ranking teams, one for each conference, will be relegated back to the D-League, while the top two D-League teams, usually the champion and the runner-up, will be promoted to the PBA. It is up to the latter's decision which conference will the promoted teams be placed. In the event a PBA franchise is disbanded or merged to another team, then the D-League will promote another team to the PBA to fill the void. 

In this format, however, there will be no longer PBA affiliate teams in the D-League, since all teams in both leagues will be considered PBA franchises. League expansion in the PBA will also not be possible since all new franchises must either enter the D-League first or purchase an existing PBA franchise, should a company-owner plans to sell it. In addition, trades will occur within the tier. Thus, if a PBA star player is relegated to the D-League, the only way to return to the PBA is by having his team make it to the D-League Finals.

The second promotion-relegation system will be used for semi-professional leagues like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), our version of the National Basketball League (NBL), Community Basketball Association (CBA) and the upcoming VisMin Super Cup (VMSC), which will open in 2021. This system will serve as a "farm league" for the PBA, since they are playing under either FIBA or amateur basketball rules (for minor, regional grassroots leagues) and most of the players are homegrown (that is, from the general area the team is representing). In this format, the two lowest ranking MPBL teams, one each in the North and South, will go to NBL. The two lowest-ranking NBL teams in Manila or Luzon will go to CBA, and the two lowest-ranking NBL teams in Visayas or Mindanao will go to VMSC. The lowest-ranking CBA and VMSC teams will then be relegated to the minor leagues, and so on. In turn, the top champions in the minor leagues will go to CBA and VMSC, the CBA and VMSC champion, along with their runners-up, will go to NBL; and the NBL champion and runner-up will go to MPBL. PBA and D-League teams will then have the freedom to choose which of these teams will be their affiliate.

So these you have it, my suggestions on how to make our basketball habit more exciting. I know this will be complicated to some people, but if you are aware of how other sports leagues in the world are running, I am sure you will take some, if not all of it, into consideration.