The COVID-19 pandemic has created many disruptions in our lives, and for many sports fans, a huge sports vacuum. To those who particularly love basketball, I am guessing you have already finished watching the Netflix documentary The Last Dance, re-watched all of your favorite games or highlights, read just about any sports article online, and maybe finally given in to Tiktok. As a big hoops fan myself, I had done all of the above, except the Tiktok, or at least not yet. After watching Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game from 2016 for the Nth time in the last two months, I figured I might as well come up with additional reading materials for local sports fans that can hopefully take a few good minutes off of our time in quarantine.
So, wearing my self-proclaimed hall of fame great sports fan badge, I built my own all-time write-up of a sport closer to home – our very own Philippine Basketball Association. After going through as much available information in the internet and remembering every memory I have about the PBA, I ended with a list of the Top 10 Most Valuable Player (MVP) seasons in the PBA.
Unlike other all-time greatest players list, this one focuses on the specific MVP season of the players and does not compare the entirety of their careers. I know I needed to have a semblance of a criteria so I have come up with this: superior statistical performance, team success, and historical significance.
Here goes what maybe the most stimulating, if not the least authoritative (the spectrum is that wide) PBA All-time list ever made. I hope you enjoy.
10. Vergel Meneses (1995)
With an almost Grand Slam for the Sunkist Orange Juicers and an almost regular season, all-star and finals MVP sweep (the PBA did not award a Finals MVP until 1996 but he surely would have won it in the ’95 All-Filipino Finals), Vergel Meneses’ 1995 campaign was as good as it could get. The Aerial Voyager glided his way to a career best 20.0 points per game (ppg) average behind a 50% shooting clip. And just to add to the “almost” accomplishments, he also almost swept all three Best of Player of the Conference Awards winning the first two of the three given that year.
9. Asi Taulava (2003)
“The Rock” Asi Taulava came in the PBA in 1999 in a huge way. He was the fifth player in the PBA to measure 6 foot 9 above but he may have been the most powerful among them all. So true to his imposing style and presence, Asi Taulava muscled his way in 2003 to claim his only MVP award. He led the league in scoring with his career high 23.4 ppg while posting 13.7 rebounds per game (rpg) and playing 42.2 minutes per game. He excelled on both ends of the floor as he was also named to the All-Defensive team, just the second player to do so in his MVP season after Johnny Abarrientos did it in 1996. He led the Talk n’ Text franchise to its first PBA Championship.
8. Alvin Patrimonio (1993)
Philippine basketball in the 90’s was simply Alvin Patrimonio basketball. His talent, will and charisma attracted many audiences from all walks to watch him. He was the Pinoy Michael Jordan and just like Mike, I believe he was able to sell a lot of shoes as well, a lot of Kaypee shoes. While he claimed four MVP honors that decade, it was in 1993 when he managed to make his team consistently dominant throughout the year as Purefoods went to two finals, captured the All-Filipino title and finished with above .500 records in all three conferences, the only time this happened in the Captain’s 17 years with the franchise. That year, he posted averages of 21.6 ppg on 57% filed goal shooting along with 8.9 rpg.
7. Bogs Adornado (1975)
A remarkable line-up of basketball superstars from nine teams were showcased in the maiden season of the PBA in 1975, and yes, in all their short shorts glory. Many of them have become the country’s legends in basketball. In fact, 11 of the total 18 local players in the PBA Hall of Fame to date were from this batch. It is then no small feat to be the first to be named the best among them all. Bogs Adornado, the PBA’s first MVP, tore the hoops that year with his league leading 26.9 ppg average. His 19.2 ppg also led all scorers during the All-Filipino title series they won against their archrival, the Toyota Comets.
6. Allan Caidic (1990)
The greatest shooter in the country and arguably one of the greatest in Asia, Allan Caidic shot the lights out in 1990 en route to his MVP season and winning the All-Filipino title. He scored 26.6 ppg while shooting an efficient rate of 49.3% from the field, 38.2% from the 3-point line and 85.2% from the stripe. During the All-Filipino Conference, he was scoring like an import norming around 35ppg. And he made a lot of threes as he was most known for in his career, a single season record then of 160. (People perhaps most remember his outburst of 79-points and 17 3-pointers made in a single game but that took place the year after, and he was not named the MVP as his team ended up with 21-29 win-loss record in 1991.)
5. June Mar Fajardo (2019)
First of all, the phrase “Release the Kraken” is not of PBA origin. Those words came from Liam Neeson in the movie Clash of the Titans. But I will not be surprised if many PBA fans only associate releasing the Kraken to June Mar Fajardo bulldozing his way in the paint because that is just how a league giant he has become. Six… Straight… MVPs… This is just unheard of. Following this feat in 2019, pundits were pushed to ask even more whether the “Kraken” had just become the PBA “GOAT”. In his sixth MVP year, he again dominated on both ends of the floor scoring 18.9 ppg (2nd in the league), grabbing 13.0. rpg (1st) and swatting 1.5 blocks per game (3rd). But you can forget all these numbers and just remember that during the All-Filipino Cup finals, he averaged 19.1 rpg and closed it with a 31-rebound performance in Game 7.
4. Benjie Paras (1989)
This ranks high among the top MVP campaigns not just for its statistical highlights but most especially for its historical significance. In 1989, not only was Benjie Paras able to launch his showbiz career in the movie Last Two Minutes (which come to think of it, sounds like a good title to a sequel to The Last Dance, if there will be one… so to the producers, you saw it here first), he also became the first and, up to now, the only player to be hailed MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same year. In this historic campaign, he registered 25.6 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 2.6 bpg, numbers unmatched by any other MVP, and helped Shell reach the finals of the Open Conference.
3. Ricardo Brown (1985)
The Quick Brown Fox, the first four words we type when we pretend working out our keyboard as the boss passes us by, are also the first four words that many experts may think of when talking about all-time great scorers in the PBA. Ricardo “Quick Brown Fox” Brown immediately made an impact in the league with his scoring ability when he entered in 1983 and took him only two years to dominate it. In 1985, Brown became the first Filipino-foreigner to win the MVP with his league best 27.9 ppg and 9.1 assists per game (apg) averages. He would lead Great Taste to two championship titles in the process. He displayed his point-making skills throughout the year as he scored 40 or more points eight times while posting his personal game high of 56 points during the playoffs.
2. Robert Jaworski (1978)
If the NBA had the “Big O” in Oscar Robertson, the Philippines had the “Big J” in Robert “Sonny” “The Living Legend” Jaworski. Perhaps not known to many, during his MVP campaign in 1978, Jaworski came close to replicating Roberston’s rare feat (although not so rare anymore… thanks a lot Russel Westbrook!) of posting a triple-double average for the entire season. The Big J’s impressive all-around court savvy was in full display that year as he averaged 20.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 8.2 apg and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 51% from the field. In the process, he recorded the most assists, 2-point field goals made and minutes played that year. But what was more impressive was how he was able to grab the most rebounds while playing point guard. He helped deliver two championships and three finals appearances to the Toyota Corolla Masters that year.
1. Ramon Fernandez (1984)
If it were up to me, I would say the “Elegant Shot” is the most beautiful shot in all of basketball. It is like the Kobe fadeaway but with full awareness that multiple cameras are pointed at you. I would imagine that a lot of this elegance was shown in 1984 when Mr. Elegant Shot himself, Ramon Fernandez, churned out arguably the best statistical season accomplishment the league has ever seen. That year, Fernandez posted averages of 27.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 9.9 apg, and was actually just 5 assists short of a triple double season average. He posted more than 20 triple-doubles in the 64 games he played that year. He led the league across many statistical categories and in separate games, he had 21 assists and 22 made free throws, both game high records at that time. He was also able to lead the newly formed Beer Hausen team to the finals along the way.
Fernandez’ 1984 MVP season is on top of this list for now. But who knows, the next magical MVP season to shake up this list could just be around the corner. Of course, the games must resume first. In the meantime, stay safe everyone!