April 15, 2024

Easily, the most entertaining show in this country is basketball.

We, Filipinos, love our basketball so much that it is like a religion to us. We crave for it, we cheer for it, and we follow it doggedly as if our lives depended on it. Our love for basketball is a passion that finds no equal in any part of the world. Thus, we adore our basketball players like rock stars. We treasure them as we do our loved ones. Ironically, our passion and love for the game is in danger of being curtailed.

What keeps a basketball game intense and interesting is the presence of high-valued performers who can keep the audience at the edge of their seats. It is in the three-point shots, the dunks, the alley-oops, the no-look passes, and the fancy moves executed by players who are gifted with the talent to play basketball that make us follow the game.

Thus, without quality players who can do these in and around the hoop, the game would be uninteresting. There will be nothing to watch.

During the drafting of players for the 2022 season of the Philippine Basketball Association, the prospective number one draft was a player from La Salle by the name of Justine Baltazar. He is a 6’ 7” behemoth who can dribble, shoot with accuracy, and dunk the ball with elegance and ease. He was highly coveted by teams.

However, a week before the scheduled draft, he pulled out his name from the roster and announced that he will trade his wares in the Japanese league instead. He would rather play in a rival league because the pay is higher and the benefits are better that what the local teams can offer him.

Baltazar is not only the A-player who opted out of the PBA in exchange for an offer by another league, usually the Japanese Basketball League. Others like Keifer and Thirdy Ravena, Matthew Wright, Greg Slaughter, RJ Belangel, AJ Abarrientos, Bobby Ray Parks, Dwight Ramos, etc. all bolted out of the Philippines and went abroad to play for foreign basketball teams. They had the same reasons for doing so – higher pay and better benefits. Surely, they will not be the last to leave.

Die-hard fans of the PBA are asserting “so what if the foregoing players leave and play for other leagues abroad?” So what?

The realization that the exodus of players to other leagues will compromise the quality and parity of games in our own league has not dawned on us. This is because the likes of Junmar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, Paul Lee, Mikey Williams, Jayson Castro and other active superstars in the PBA are still playing.

Still, there are questions that must be answered. What if they get injured? Or they retire? Or they are enticed to accept an offer elsewhere like what happened to Bobby Ray Parks and Matthew Wright? What now?

Without the influx of fresh and exciting talents, the PBA will go down the drain as a dead competition. Nobody will watch a tournament where the players are second rated and are unworthy of adulation. Indeed, this is a serious situation.