Ever since Uncle Sam introduced the game to Las Islas Filipinas, basketball has caught the imagination of every Pinoy like no other sports have. So pervasive has it become that even such a successful boxer as Pacquiao wants to have a part of it in the PBA. Even when he plays the underdog role, barely making a shot.
In Planet Philippines, basketball is king. You can speak Hiligaynon, Bisaya or Tagalog and you may not be understood by other regional speakers. But the language of basketball is understood by every Juan. Yes even the superstars of the Western more affluent world are household words (e.g., Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Kobe, Kevin Durant). And in this side of the Pacific, local names have gained superstar status too, changing the game of basketball like no other.
Gentlemen, the top 10 Most Valuable Players of the PBA that has raised our basketball standards nationwide, emulated but never copied.
#10: Willie Miller
In 2001, Miller made a strong move off-court that launched his career to stardom, getting out of just started MBA and leaping into PBA. Must have been the right move at the right time leaving the Nueva Ecija Patriots as soon in 2002 he became unquestionably the Most Valuable Player of the season giving Red Bull a second title in the PBA.
He maybe a mighty mouse as he is an inch short of being a 6-footer but his all-around play has been so impressive he won the PBA MVP again in 2006-2007 conference.
Height: 5’ 11”
Team: Red Bull Barako
Asi quickly established his trademark dominance in the paint when he entered the PBA in 1999 straight from the PBL and in fact represented the country countless times. Not before long, he was awarded the NBA MVP in 2003.
Though there is no doubt big man Asi has bested many other centers in the sport, his citizenship has caught him a lot of flak as many question his right to play in the Philippines. Today, he is the oldest active player in the PBA at 40 years old.
Height: 6’ 10”
Team: Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals
#8: Erik Menk
Eric Conrand Menk is a Filipino-American PBA player. Like Asi Taulava, citizenship became an issue for this Fil-Am player and before he knew it he was under heavy fire during the Commissioner’s Cup. However, Eric is back after providing proof of his citizenship and is expected to play with former national teammate Asi Taulava.
Eric won the MVP award on the 2004-2005 PBA season.
Height: 6’ 6”
Team: Barangay Ginebra Kings
#7: James Yap
Well, this one may not need any introduction. The ex-partner of talk show queen Kris Aquino, James Yap has become a fave fodder in the everyday tsismis of many Pinoy wives while washing their clothes. Not to mention the fact has he is having his foreigner GF lovey-dovey in tow every time.
James Yap scored big in the ladies department and in the basketball court’s hoops. Today, he stands tall and proud as one of only 2 in this a-list who have won the MVP award twice. MVP: 2005-2006, 2009-2010
Team:Purefoods Chunkee Giants
#6: Kelly Williams
Another Fil-Am, Kelly was born to an American father and a Filipina mother in Detroit, Michigan and made the round in college basketball in the US. Recruited by coach Chot Reyes after seeing his stellar play, Kelly became the #1 pick in the first overall draft right in 2006.
Soon, his star shone brightest in the PBA as he propelled his team to win its 2nd championship trophy, winning him the MVP in 2007-2008. However, his career has been plagued by sickness as he is suffering from idiopathic thrombocytopenicpurpura making him take a sabbatical every now and then.
Height: 6’ 7”
Team: Sta. Lucia Realtors
Dubbed the other side of The Fast and Furious tandem with Mark Caguioa, Jayjay’s is another Fil-Am who was originally named Lamberto Romero Vicente, Jr. but changed his name when his mother remarried a Helterbrand, an American.
His stellar play has been at its peak when with Caquioa they ravaged the backcourt like no other with their blinding speed of execution. And rightfully, in the 2008-2009 season he got the plum award, the PBA MVP.
Team: Barangay Ginebra Kings
#4: Jimmy Alapag
He maybe the most diminutive of this bunch of A-listers but that does not make Jimmy any less of an MVP. It is for this reason that Jimmy has been dubbed the Mighty Mouse and commanded much-respect from his teammates as he captained the Talk ‘N Text squad.
His play-making ability has been tested to the hilt when Philippines played in the 2014 FIBA games and he has every Pinoy screaming for more. Philippines may not have won that world event bowing out to much taller squads but one name has shot up like a rocket to the sky: Jimmy Alapag.
He won the PBA MVP in 2010-2011 season.
Team: Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters
#3: Mark Caquioa
The other half of The Fast and Furious team, Mark honed his skills when he played collegiate ball in the US, at the Glendale Community College. Initially brought in to be a reliever for the aging Vergel Meneses, he has instead used the opportunity to showcase his talents. He wowed the crowd with his penchant for clutch plays, killer cross-overs and slash driver, earning the respect and admiration of every Pinoy fan.
Not before long, he won the Rookie of the Year award and eventually cornered the most coveted MVP plum award besting Gary David in the 2011-2012 conference.
Team: Barangay Ginebra Kings
A true blue FEU Tamaraw, Arwind already showcased his undeniable skills in college winning the Rookie of the Year honors. And with his passion and hard work he navigated the collegiate team to a UAAP title, their first ever in six seasons.
Arwind may have been bested by James Yap in getting the MVP awards in college but he soon establish his superior brand of basketball. He was always pitted against Williams in bucketing the MVP trophy since they were drafted together in that 2006 PBA draft. However, Arwind soon found his mark and got the MVP award in the 20012-20013 season of the PBA.
Team: Petron Blaze Boosters
And finally, the man of the season. The one player that gave every Juan a glimmer of hope in the FIBA games, the man who played for University of Cebu in his college days, Junmar Fajardo.
Growing up poor, he has shown promise from the very start and was drafted first in the 2012 PBA Draft by Petron Blaze. And in spite of his relatively young age, he was able to battle it out with more experience players. His skills have been tapped in many international competition and he was instrumental in the Philippines being part of FIBA 2014. Pretty soon, he found his confidence and played well even in the absence of Fil-Am Andre Blatche. Many Pinoysbegin to doubt the coaching ability as Fajardo was given but a few minutes despite his stellar performance.
His best international showing must be against Senegal, where he tallied a total of 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists. To note, Fajardo cornered the much-coveted PBA MVP in the 2013-2014 season.
Team: San Miguel Beer Men
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