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Sam Miguel

My Memorable Basketball Moments for 2017

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It is officially a new year, and yes Praxedes, we somehow survived the annual mandatory blood alcohol poisoning that is part of the rituals of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.

Below, numbered for enumeration and not for order of importance, are my memorable basketball moments for 2017:

1. Kevin Durant made the move and won his championship ring.

There are those who think Durant ought to be commended for finally coming to terms with the fact that he and Russell Westbrook will never win an NBA world title together in Oklahoma City.

There are also those who think Durant should never ever be allowed into the Hall of Fame because he took the easiest way out of that little conundrum by signing with the Golden State Warriors, effectively ensconcing the NBA title in the West for all time, or at least the next decade.

Durant did what he had to do, and did it at a time when he can still win multiple championships in Oakland. Yes, if he was as great as he thinks he is then he should have stayed in Oklahoma and proven it.

But then again, he doesn't owe anybody any explanation or excuse about making a move that is simply a no-brainer if he wants to have the one thing that all the true greats have, a championship.

Unless LeBron James is cloned in Cleveland then the NBA has become boring for the next decade or so.

2. Ginebra retains its Governors Cup title.

Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco played to a record crowd of over 54,000 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan in the Mother of all Game 7's as the Gin Kings retained their PBA Governors Cup championship.

Greg Slaughter, who sat out the 2016 title run due to injury, finally got his first PBA championship on the hardwood floor.

Meralco put up a heck of a fight, but in the end the superior size of Ginebra proved just to big (literally) an obstacle to overcome.

If the Game 7 box office and television share was any indication, Ginebra is still the lifeblood of the PBA.

3. Lyceum went from shit to sweep in the NCAA.

Talk about the Lyceum Pirates in the NCAA and you'd normally get word associations such as "cellar dweller", "league doormat", "whipping boys". At least until this season.

This season the Pirates completed an historic 18-game regular season sweep of the NCAA, including two tough games against reigning champion San Beda.

Granted they eventually folded when it mattered most, getting swept 2-0 in the Finals as the Red Lions went on to continue their NCAA Dynasty.

Still, no one can ever take away what Coach Topex Robinson, CJ Perez and the rest of the Pirates achieved this season. That si probably a record that will stand for the better part of this century.

4. Christian Standhardinger, through no fault of his own, is now June Mar Fajardo's teammate.

Mention Christian Standhardinger and what automatically comes to mind is the controversial trade that allowed the already powerful San Miguel Beer franchise to draft him with the Number 1 pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft.

No one except the most hardcore of hoops fans even heard of Standhardinger before this year.

He is a strapping and active 6-foot-8 Filipino-German forward who spent his college years in the US NCAA.

Then Gilas head coach Chot Reyes summoned him for national team duty and he answered the call.

Although he was classified by FIBA as a naturalized player and not a local, he saw action with Gilas and showed Pinoy fans why Reyes wanted him.

Fast forward to Draft Day 2017 and Kia gives up the rights to the Number 1 pick in favor of some role players, allowing the Beermen to nab Standhardinger.

He now gets to play alongside four-time MVP Fajardo, although not right away since he still has an active ABL contract to play out.

5. Chito Narvasa resigns as PBA Commissioner following the Standhardinger controversy.

Kia, as mentioned above, gave up the chance to get Standhardinger in the draft essentially for three role players: JR Reyes, Ronald Tubid, and Filipino-American Rashawn McCarthy. Uh, who? Yes Praxedes, that was what everybody thought as well.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, Narvasa.

This trade would not have been consummated had Narvasa not approved it as Commissioner.

This then led to a "schism" of sorts within the PBA Board, with five team allied with the San Miguel Corporation on one side, supporting Narvasa, and seven teams led by the PLDT Group on the other side asking for Narvasa's head on a platter.

Although Narvasa held out for a while, he did eventually give up and resign.

Truth be told nobody would ever in a million lifetimes believe this was a fair trade, but it was already approved and so it came to pass.

6. The Ateneo upsets La Salle to take the UAAP Title.

Let us first get this out of the way: Yes, this was an upset.

La Salle had arguably the best player ever in the history of the league in powerful 6-foot-6 import Benoit Mbala, plus they had at least one other young superstar in 6-foot-1 swingman Ricci Rivero, a Mythical 5 member in only his sophomore year. They also had 6-foot-5 slam dunk champion Leonard Santillan, sweet shooting point guard Aljun Melecio, and 6-foot-5 all-purpose forward Abu Tratter.

Ateneo on the other hand had a bunch of role players, none of whom even averaged in double figures just the season previous. Sure, 6-foot-3 forward Thirdy Ravena made the Mythical 5, but seriously, at what position did the Ateneo have a clear advantage over La Salle?

Think about it: no other UAAP champion in the last decade has ever been this much of an underdog, not even the 2007 La Salle team that beat the 14-0 University of the East Warriors.

Even the book makers gave all of the pluses for the Blue Eagles - La Salle was that strong.

So how did the Blue Eagles pull this off? It seems Tab Baldwin really was the right man for the job. His by-the-numbers system and refusal to rely on any one superstar wound up creating multiple stars out of guys who were previosuly strcitly role players.

George Go might be his biggest success story, as the 6-foot-7 Applied Chemistry major made all the big shots that eventually sealed the deal for the Ateneo.

Honorable mention should go to 5-foot-10 point guard Matt Nieto, who was the designated glue guy.

7. The Phenom finally makes his PBA debut.

It took a couple of years but Kiefer Ravena, the man they call the Phenom, finally joined the PBA Draft and was selected second overall by the NLEX Road Warriors right behind Standhardinger.

Ravena is averaging over 19 points per game over his first two games (both NLEX victories) and is garnering a lot of column inches and online space.

It reamins to be seen however how he will fare once NLEX takes on the big boys like San Miguel, Ginebra, and Talk N Text.

He still doesn't seem to be a natural point guard and is far from being a go-to scorer, but he has a PBA-ready body and mentality and time will tell how far he can take it.

8. Aldin Ayo leaves Taft for Espana.

He is one of only a very select few who have won titles in both the NCAA and UAAP, having brought the Letran Knights and the Green Archers to the Promised Land in back to back years at that.

But his stay in Taft proved some of that glitter was not gold after all.

Losing to arch rival Ateneo to end this year could not have made things any better.

Aldin Ayo now gets a second chance at UAAP glory, albeit in the not-too-pressure-packed environs of Santo Tomas. After a winless season there really is no other way but up for the Growling Tigers.

Of course the UAAP rumor mills have not stopped buzzing, with some quarters saying this is all a ploy by La Salle patron Danding Cojuangco to make an ally of UST on important UAAP Board decisions.

We shall soon see if these rumors are true or not.

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Here's hoping 2018 brings on more excitement for all of us hardcore hoops fans!

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