Basketball Connections

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Be warned. This might be an incomprehensibly messy piece—if you’re not “in”-to this universe’s lingo; but you’re very much welcome to jump on the bandwagon or get sucked into this vortex of highs and lows.

If you’re a diehard Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) fan like me, you would give everything on earth just to see your hard court heroes on TV, scream with intensity after getting that and-one from a strong slashing drive to the hoop or better yet, showboat and whoop it up with teammates after hitting that dagger three right at the buzzer.

By hard court heroes, I mean Kobe 24 (must include my long-time idol; even if already retired, Mamba Mentality lives on); LBJ (hail to Lebron James, the reigning Laker King in La-La Land and the official coronation might be this coming season; thanks to his incoming back up knight, The Brow [Anthony Davis] and a bevy of young but untried, and old but tested teammates, who are dying to pose for those championship celebration photo ops); SC30 [Stephen Curry] (Mr. Sorry I Did It Again—for the second time now); The Klaw [Kawhi Leonard] (Dynasty Destroyer at his best all throughout the 2019 postseason but beat the heck out of everyone by tipping the NBA balance in favour of the Lakers’ next door neighbour and signing with the Clippers, thus, forming a big three with PG [Paul George] and super-sub extraordinaire Lou Williams who once put on the purple and gold uniform himself); the NSD [Never-Say-Die] Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings (where Mark Caguioa once reigned as one-time MVP; I used to root for him not because we share the same hair (head) style but due to the swagger that “The Spark” exudes similar to that of [Kobe] Bryant’s).

You will never dare miss a beat especially now that you could stream the games live on your cell phones anywhere, anytime, as long as you have that new lifestyle necessity called mobile data in the absence of wifi connection. Otherwise, you could simply go online at home after work and watch every game dates that you’ve missed with the benefit of getting to choose from recap-only highlights or full game views on top of the blow-by-blow analysis you can indulge in from your much-loved basketball geniuses—Philippine-born or Stateside.

Quinito Henson is the sure fire number one Filipino bet in this department with his well-researched write-ups giving the fantastic impression that he knows everything there is to know not only about basketball but also in boxing where he is meaningfully passionate about the development and accomplishments of our home-grown pugs which include another idol of mine, and everyone’s champion, Honourable Senator Manny Pacquiao. I just wish he (Pacman) didn’t throw his hat (or are those gloves?) in the dirty political ring where his enormously religious reputation might be tarnished by inevitable, never ending mudslinging.

On that other side of the globe, you’d fancy senior reporter David Aldridge who communicates with absolute wisdom coming from years of following the NBA from its Basketball Association of America (BAA)-National Basketball League (NBL) days up to now covering every aspect of the league from the concerns of team management build up, player acquisition and movement, salary cap restrictions with luxury taxation, coach-manager-president of basketball operations integration, proceeding to the rise and fall of franchises and the overall evolution and elevation of the association. Mr. Aldridge may not have actually witnessed it when the NBA took its first baby steps but he was very much alive and kicking, and had a front row seat as a budding sports caster, when the league made gigantic strides towards eventually transforming into a full-blown 30-team business model. Of course, David might not be the only basketball journalist who has seen all these, even our very own Dean of Basketball (Henson) with his on-the-dot nose for fresh news can never be left out in the cold and will always get his hands inside that cookie jar of fascinating events and information. Those PBA honchos must also have wired in as well since the first play-for-pay league in Asia is perfectly patterned after the NBA with some appropriate modifications here and there.


If it didn’t pass your thoughts to account for every exciting or boring (for some of course—theory of “relativism” at work here) idea I’ve put in fine print above, well, I guess I need to slow down and make matters more obvious for those who are too busy with gadgets and e-games making them totally unaware that Filipinos once put down everything to be glued to those small black and white pictured tubes every other night just to shout invectives (a la President Duterte) at unknowing referees who make bad calls, consciously or unconsciously, which are adjudged as “luto” (game-fixing) as if these officials were in plain sight and within arm’s reach. On the flip side, these overzealous people will cheer on their teams (in the case of the Crispa Redmanizers-Toyota Tamaraws legendary rivalry from 1975-1983; Danny Florencio, Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben and Philip Cezar vs. Robert Jaworksi, Francis Arnaiz and Ramon Fernandez) from the first to the last quarter and even control their bursting bladders during commercials which, during that time, last for five long minutes.

Meanwhile, the dashingly handsome players like Dondon Ampalayo, The Captain Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, The Defense Minister Jerry Codinera and of course, the Big J (Jawo) will constantly elicit flattering shrieks from the adoring female population with mothers and grandmothers joining the fray. The daringly spectacular high-fliers like Bong Alvarez and The Skywalker Samboy Lim, and the confidently cool sharp shooters like The Triggerman Allan Caidic and The Atom Bomb Ato Agustin, are usually greeted with ooohs and aaahs from the raucous crowds at home, at the sari-sari (variety) stores, restaurant-bars and all possible tambayan (hangouts) all over the country.

AkawnTHINK What?

Okay. Here you go accountants. This is the real deal.

Please tell me if this is fair or just correct.

Let’s start with the PBA. Last time I checked, the massive contract of a superstar level player in the league is 350,000.00 Php per month (It was 500,000 Php before during the first swarm of Fil-Ams in the mold of Major Pain Eric Menk and Sonny Alvarado of the now defunct Tanduay team, but they lowered it for some reason.) with the bench warmer getting an 80,000.00 Php pact just to play in practice games and warm their seats in actual games. (Hey! That’s why they’re called as such, right?) This max PBA contract is more than the reportedly 180,000.00-240,000.00 Php salary of the President of the Philippines which was as low as 95,000.00 Php before. (President Duterte should be thankful to NoyNoy for signing the income increase into law.) Worst, a teacher, who takes charge of the education of future presidents and basketball players, is given a measly 20,000.00-30,000.00 Php gross monthly wage. Some schools with less enrolees pay even lower and public schools are always not in a hurry to hire—and when they do—new teachers wait for 1, 2 or 3 months before they could withdraw their retroactive salaries.

What’s the point? Good. Now, you’re asking.

Basically, this goes to show how distorted the distribution of money is in this world. Mr. Pilpa was correct all along. Income inequality runs rampant all over the planet creating the gap between rich and poor. Why? Seems to me that this society financially values people differently using a measurement standard that is humanly flawed encompassing all generations as it is the case—across the board—since time immemorial.

Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s definitely hard to judge than to count. But, the counters judge by the numbers. So, is it safe to say that on your end, seeing the 350,000.00 Php tag price of basketball players, we could agree on the (thesis) statement that they are way more valuable than the Chief Executive of the Land who is the brain of all decisions and moves that the nation undertakes? More so, are teachers, majority of which tirelessly act as second parents or even actual parents of school children, disciplining and educating at every given opportunity, not up to the standards of hoopsters based on the number of digits in their pay slips?

There's more. I’m now putting the NBA mix into the pan by throwing at you the $142 million, 4-year deal that Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Clippers. What about Lebron’s $190 million, 4-year contract with the Lakers now on its second year? Or, Steph’s $201 million, 5-year pact with the Warriors.

If you’d check these players’ histories and stats, you may know why they’re given the fat pay checks.

The Klaw recently earned his 2nd Finals MVP nod along with his 2nd Championship ring in his 2nd team. For the 2018-2019 NBA Season, he registered modest numbers of 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists which he punctuates with his choking defensive presence (2-time Defensive Player of the Year awardee) gaining the honour of repeating what he did to LBJ’s Miami Heat in 2014.

LBJ had a rest period of sorts when his Lakers, his 3rd team at 34, failed to get past the playoffs. Before this season, he made 6 straight Finals appearances winning 3 times and being voted the Finals MVP in those Championship victories not to mention the 4 regular season MVP citations in his resume. He averaged a phenomenal 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists in only 55 games this previous season. I said only (55) because this is the least number of games he played in considering his 15 career years in the league.

Steph Curry and his Warriors were severely upset by Kawhi and the Raptors in the recently concluded 2019 Finals. They could always give the excuse that KD was not there and right now, he will not be around anymore since he already decided to sign with the Brooklyn Nets to team up with Kyrie Irving although it has to wait till the 2020-2021 season due to his surgically repaired right Achilles tendon. Going back to Steph, his Warriors becoming Worriers (using the word of Mindfulness), should be alleviated because he’ll have his Splash Brother back with Klay Thompson agreeing to a $190 million, 5-year extension. However, Curry still needs to lick his wounds since he must be hurting once again turning from hero to zero as if lightning struck twice with him missing another three-point try at crunch time in another crucial game—perhaps, this one was even more unmolested than the shot he took over the outstretched arms of Kevin Love in that Game 7 2016 Finals booboo. Statistical-wise, he might have given justice to being the highest paid player in the NBA to date with his 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists.

In the horizon, a select group of people will think out-of-the-box and leave no stones unturned in scrutinising (these) facts and figures for all intents and purposes to favour mere mortals who do not look beyond what is normally (t)here. They are the akawnTHINKERS.

Now, it’s my turn to ask the questions.

Is your salary commensurate with what you do? Or, this just applies in basketball? What is the real score?

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