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In Your Face!

With These Beermen, No Contest

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Sam Miguel usually handles the PBA, but this time he let me have a go at it.

It was over one of our regular dinners with Mr Libog that the subject of comparing the great San Miguel Beer teams came up.

Coincidentally I just had an interesting exchange with the great Bill "William the Conqueror" Velasco the afternoon earlier about this same topic.

Here's the deal: Which of the three great San Miguel Beer teams is the best, the 1989 Grand Slam team, the 2-Danny's team of the late 1990's to early 2000's, or the current 2017 team of June Mar Fajardo.

Of course the discussions we had were much too free-flowing, so maybe let us set some "parameters" if we can.

First off, it is easy to be tempted to look at individual players and their stats and just say this guy scored more, rebounded more, passed more, etc etc, and therefore he is clearly better than the other guy. We can't really do that. Remember, those stats were not made against each other, these teams never played against each other, so those stats were only for a particular point in the fabric of the basketball time-space continuum. They might be useful but they cannot be the be-all and end-all of this discussion. The same thing holds true for individual awards like the MVP trophy. You all know how I (and Sam) feel about the very concept of an MVP in the first place.

Secondly, we have to look at them as teams, and from the particular eras in which they dominated. This must hold especially true for the 1989 team because of the presence there of Ramon Fernandez, the man widely recognized as the best Filipino basketball player ever. (More on this particular point later.) In 1989 Fernandez was a year removed from the last of his four MVP awards, and was no longer the stud he was from say the late 1970's to maybe the earlier half of the 1980's. He still had great game of course, but he was no longer at the peak of his powers here. This will be very important to keep in mind.

Third, since this is 2017, we will compare these three great teams through the prism of current PBA officiating, so in terms of officiating we will look at this in terms of what is allowed, and no longer allowed by current PBA rules, such as the Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2 distinctions.

Fourth, and I cannot stress this enough, if you do not believe that both the game and the players have somehow or other evolved, at least from 1989-onward, then we can end this discussion right here.

Fifth and last, let us pretend that all three teams could be put in a mini-tournament, triple round robin eliminations, so each team gets six elimination games each, with the top two teams facing off in a best of seven Finals.

Bearing all of these in mind, let me get straight to the conclusion Mr Libog and I agreed on: the Finals would be between the 2-Danny's team and June Mar's team; the Grand Slam team would get its licks in but in the end would not have enough size and talent to knock off either of the later-generation teams.

Let's get the admitted facts out of the way first.

Mr Libog and I agreed that Allan Caidic, hands down, is the only one from the 1989 team who could still play the game as it is being played in 2017. Caidic is without a doubt the best damn shooter ever that this country has produced. Ever. Take all of the best shooters across all the generations and Caidic would be the best among that esteemed lot.

June Mar Fajardo will go down in history as the best player ever, regardless of position. At his young age he will probably win at least a dozen more PBA championships, and maybe at least a half dozen more MVP awards. He has truly changed the game just by being here. You're talking about a 6-10, 260- to 270-pound player who has touch, good footwork, agility, and mobility, and can even run in transition. Yes, Fernandez displayed far more skill, coming close one season to averaging a near-triple double for an entire year. But Fernandez never changed the game the way Fajardo did, simply because for all his wondrous talent, Fernandez was a normal-sized Filipino big man, in that 6-5 to 6-5 range. Had Fernandez been at least 6-8, then maybe we'd have a different opinion. But Fajardo is completely different owing precisely to his sheer size, and he isn't the barely-skilled lumbering lummox that say Bonel Balingit, or Chris Bolado, or EJ Feihl, or Dong Polisitico were. Fajardo, far more certainly, is better than fellow skilled skyscraper types such as Marlou Aquino and Yancy De Ocampo. And let us not forget, he is not only tall and long, he is thick-bodied and massive. It is that complete package that has allowed him to amass the titles and accolades he has, and he isn't even 30 years old.

"Dynamite" Danny Seigle will go down in PBA history as the best player never to win an MVP award. This is a very athletic, highly skilled 6-6 player who literally played all five positions on the court in his heyday. He could play inside, outside, and all points in between. A lot of people may not remember that he is a legit US NCAA Division 1 star who revolutionized the small forward position when he came to the Philippines.

One other very important thing Mr Libog and I agreed on: forget the coaches, let's just say Norman Black, Jong Uichico, and Leo Austria would all cancel each other out coaching-wise.

Now on to the rest of our discussion.

"Iba na ang player ngayon," Mr Libog repeated his favorite mantra, in between helpings of the Korean barbecue and some kimchi. "Isipin mo na lang ang bilis ng player ngayon, ano mas mahirap bantayan na player, 'yung mabilis o 'yung hindi mabilis?" he asked rhetorically as usual.

I absolutely agreed with him, and I even have some bit of "evidence" in support of this. When I was still doing basketball photography I was quite surprised that I had to change the settings on my camera just to get rid of the "noise" on the edges of pictures of players in action, "Ganun na pala kabilis ang mga players ngayon, akala ko uubra pa settings na gamit ko nung time nina Dindo Pumaren sa Purefoods," I said. "The Bullet" was my benchmark back then because he was the fastest thing on two feet in that era. I thought the players I was shooting in later generations didn't get much faster. Boy was I in for a surprise when i reviewed my later-generation photographs.

"Hulaan mo pa sino tinutukoy kong player na kinailangan ko gamitan ng faster settings sa camera," I said. Mr Libog just shrugged. He had heard all this from me before.

"Si JV Casio, when he was with La Salle and then Gilas and then Powerade," I said.

"Eh hindi naman super bilis si JV ah, certainly not as fast as Roi (Sumang) or Jio (Jalalon)," he remarked, himself a little surprised.

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, JV pa nga lang mas mabilis na kay Dindo, what more mga gaya nina Jayson Castro, Roi, Jio, even Simon Enciso," I said.

So among the three San Miguel teams, except for Seigle, this 2017 team, by sheer evolution, has arguably the fastest, most athletic players among the three. And they have Fajardo.

"Fernandez, Yves Dignadice, and all of the other power forwards and centers of 1989 had a hard enough time, and in fact got the crap beaten out of them by the likes of Ma Jian, Song Li Gang, and Shan Tao. And I think June Mar is better than those China players, maybe not as good a shooter, but I think he's more mobile, certainly a more willing and able runner, especially at his size," remarked Mr Libog.

"If Fernandez and Company had a hard time with those China players how can they hope to match up against a player better than those guys? O sige, wag na mga China players, si Benjie Paras nga dinadakdakan sila ng harap-harapan, pinipitasan sila ng bola sa ulo, and Paras si what, five inches and 50 pounds smaller than June Mar? No contest eh," he added.

"And remember, may kakamping Arwind Santos si June Mar, a much better power forward than Yves or Freddie Abuda, or Nic Belasco," Mr Libog noted.

"Basketball at its simplest is a game of match-ups. Kaya nga sabi nila parati na exploit the mismatches hindi ba? Hindi pa ba obvious na ang lamang sa match-ups dito sa tatlo eh 'yung team ni June Mar, mostly because of June Mar? Take the high percentage shot, sino pinakanakakagawa nung high percentage shot? Hindi ba si June Mar, on sheer size na lang ha, how can two relatively lean guys like Fernandez and Danny Ildefonso ever keep June Mar from his sweet spots, mahirap yata 'yon," he explained.

This is where Caidic and Seigle come in, and they are on separate teams in this scenario. They are the advantage of their respective teams, and they are the only advantages.

Where does Samboy Lim come in?

"He doesn't. He's what, 6-1? Sure he can fly, but he wasn't elite fast, and all those times he supposedly embarrassed much larger players, those were still mostly the lumbering types, the ones that had some mobility hinidi na niya kinaya, like the China guys, maybe at best match lang sila ni Lassiter, two-hand dunker din naman si Marcio, much faster pa, at much better shooter than Samboy," he responded.

"Meron pa nga palang Chris Ross at Alex Cabagnot ang 2017 team, plus Ronald Tubid, all very good athletes, all fast, all can shoot and defend," he added.

"Iba na talaga players ngayon," as he finished off a dragon fruit.

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  1. Emon74's Avatar
    Allan Caidic was not part of the 1989 SMB Grandslam. On discussions, I think some people tend to forget the NCC core that joined the San Miguel franchise in 1986 were ahead of their time and were already seasoned pros who were playing all together for so long.
    Its gonna be a tough series in a fantasy match up between the 1989 Beermen and the current San Miguel squad. One player that is missing in discussions is Elmer Reyes, who is a torn to every opposing team. We can also look at the 6 PBA teams back in 1989 where the rosters are evenly match compared to the present 12-team lineup of the PBA. Teams like Shell even beat our national team that has future PBA stars Jun Limpot and Vergel Meneses by 25-plus points. Imagine how a team of rookie Benjie Paras will do against lets say Blackwater and Mahindra.
    There's a video of the San Miguel-China exhibition in 1990, I don't see how others think Fernandez and Co. cannot hold their own against 6-8, 6-9 guys, and the Samboy Lim video highlights are not even complete, i've seen many more highlights of the Skywalker in the 1980s that is truly unbelievable. The core of the 1989 San Miguel Beermen, four years after with Caidic around, probably would have been beaten by Fajardo and Co. but the '89 squad with the peak Samboy, Elmer Reyes, Hec Calma, Yves Dignadice, Alvin Teng, Ato Agustin and Ramon Fernandez, I still believe can pull it off against the 2017 Beermen in the seven-game series, and im not even talking about Ricardo Brown being in the 1989 lineup.
    Updated 04-02-2017 at 07:36 AM by Emon74
  2. Joescoundrel's Avatar
    Boss Emon, I think it is because we never beat the Chinese National Team of Shan Tao, Song Li Gang, and Ma Jian in international tournament play. Iba ang exhibition, iba din ang totoong laro hindi po ba?

    As for Benjie Paras eating Mahindra and Blackwater for breakfast, admitted fact na din po 'yan, siempre si Tower of Power pa din 'yan, at sino naman ang makakatapat niya sa mga patakbuhing teams na 'yan?

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