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Paul "Bong" Alvarez was one of the most electrifying players to ever grace the Philippine basketball scene. Drafted fourth overall by Alaska in the star-studded 1989 PBA Draft, Alvarez quickly became a fan favorite with his high-flying acrobatics and impressive scoring ability.

On April 26, 1990, Alvarez scored a staggering 71 points against Formula Shell, leaving fans in awe and earning him the moniker "Mr. Excitement." He continued to dazzle on the court, earning a spot in the Mythical Five selection in his second year.

Never has the league seen a local player of his athleticism.

I guess, Samboy Lim?

But unlike The Skywalker, fans actually want to see Alvarez do his gravity-defying moves because he isn't as injury-prone.

However, despite his undeniable talent, Alvarez's career took a turn for the worse due to contract issues, coaching disputes, and his inability to play team ball. Once a hot commodity, he became known as an alleged locker room problem and journeyman player, moving from team to team in search of a stable home.

Even a stint in the newly-formed MBA league couldn't provide the stability he needed, as he played for three different teams in three seasons. When he returned to the PBA in 2002, he struggled to stay on a team for even a single conference.

Alvarez's career is going to go down as one of the greatest what-ifs in PBA history. No matter how skilled a player is, basketball is always a five-man game.



Bong Alvarez was a blue-chip find in the star-studded 1989 PBA Draft. The former San Sebastian Stag was the fourth overall pick after Benjie Paras, Nelson Asaytono, and Zaldy Realubit. He was Alaska's top pick after Elmer Cabahug, Ricric Marata, and Dondi Roque. Eric Altamirano, an unsigned first-round pick in the 1988 PBA Draft, was also signed by the squad. In the season prior, the Air Force went with defense-oriented giant Dong Polistico so there is no overlap in terms of player development.

Anyway, only a rookie MVP season could mess with his stellar first season. Alvarez averaged almost 23 points and 8 rebounds in 59 games for Alaska. Sure, Alaska never reached the finals but they were able to reach the semifinal round in all three conferences that season. Alvarez would follow his stellar campaign with an even better sophomore season in which he raised most of his stats and then would unleash a 71-point game, breaking Allan Caidic's 69-point record.

Throughout his stint with Alaska, Mr. Excitement would become their undisputed top star. From 1989 to 1993, Alvarez would win a championship, a Mythical 5 and Mythical 10 selection, and all-star selections.


Bong Alvarez's bread and butter is getting the ball from the outside, his teammates getting out of the way, and him either slashing to the inside or pulling up for more or less a one-handed jumper. Alaska managed to win its first title in 1991 but it's hard to rely on this kind of offense. While yeah, Alaska tried to look like the Chicago Bulls during the 90s, they weren't going to rely on one person to produce the baskets. Furthermore, Alvarez missed most of the 1991 PBA season because of an Achilles injury. At this point, the team has swapped Elmer Cabahug for Jojo Lastimosa, Eugene Quilban for Jun Reyes, and Alex Araneta remains to be a project. The team also selected Stevenson Solomon, Allen Sasan, and Ronnie Cahanding in the 1992 PBA Draft and as you know, Tim Cone isn't really that keen on using rookies except when he's in a new team (like in the cases of Mark Barroca and Scottie Thompson).

In 1992, Alaska finished with a so-so 21-26 record, and despite a third-place finish in the First Conference, the Milkmen failed to advance to the next round in the other two conferences. The bad record may have given Alaska the third pick of the 1993 PBA Draft, but it also led to a contract dispute with Bong Alvarez. Clearly, the triangle offense is never for the iso-based players. As what happened to James Yap and Mark Caguioa, the triangle offense is great to those that could get it and it's going to be a struggle for iso-based stars.

This is why Alaska was quick to swap Alvarez for the then-oft injured Bong Hawkins. Back then, this was a bad deal on paper but looking back, Alaska did extremely well to obtain a player they want over a disgruntled star.

And the word "disgruntled" would be heavily used from here on out.

So I guess Bong Alvarez doesn't want to play second fiddle to anyone which is why he didn't connect well with Jun Limpot in Sta. Lucia. He arrived on the scene when Vergel Meneses was either on his way or was already in Swift. Mr. Excitement would then go to Shell for Romy Dela Rosa and while it would have been awesome to see Alvarez, Benjie Paras, and Ronnie Magsanoc go insane with their enemies (lots of injuries), he was eventually traded to San Miguel for Victor Pablo.

Now it was in San Miguel wherein Alvarez slowly lost his superstar status. He is still an offensive force but San Miguel at this point was never short of players thriving in the SG/SF position with Allan Caidic, Ato Agustin, and Samboy Lim at the forefront. It also didn't help that Alvarez's coach is Ron Jacobs - a coach that values team chemistry more than anything. When Alvarez was traded to Ginebra, it was partly because of Ron Jacobs' system. When Jacobs transferred to Ginebra, Alvarez packed his bags and jumped to the MBA.

What felt like a fresh start for a superstar that can still stuff shot after shot against stars that never had the chance to shine in the PBA (or in some cases, stars who have yet to play in the PBA), it didn't take long for Alvarez to jump from team to team. I thought Pampanga was his ideal squad but I think he also had to contend with a team-oriented offense of Aric Del Rosario that was also partially based on Alaska's triangle offense. After playing in Pasig-Rizal and Socsargen, Alvarez returned to the PBA via FedEx, Talk N Text, and Red Bull before playing for the USBL's Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs.


Alvarez had a bunch of controversies inside and outside of the court and it kind of ruined him. Remember when he tried an acting career again and then he got arrested and all of a sudden, he got firsthand info as to why Gretchen Malalad is considered to be one of the best female taekwondo jins the country has ever produced? I don't know the exact chronological order of events (I don't want to Google it), but what's certain is that throughout the 2000s, Alvarez wanted to return to the PBA.

And this is his biggest downfall.

I don't know if his isolation moves would work with Tim Cone in the long run but a lengthy Alaska stint could have given him more than one PBA championship. I don't know how big the acquisition of Bong Hawkins to the Alaska grand slam cause but The Hawk is a very, VERY vital cog nonetheless. Cone has the tendency to bring the best out of the player like how he developed the gameplay of Peter June Simon (erstwhile Sixth Man) and Japeth Aguilar (misunderstood journeyman). I also said early in the blog that it can also be the opposite of what happened with Yap and Caguioa. The Bong Alvarez trade also kind of connected with the careers of Alex Araneta and Stevenson Solomon. Yes, these players never had the same careers as Hawkins and Poch Juinio, but they are also high draft picks and by design, could have had better PBA careers if given the opportunity. Alvarez is forever connected with the Alaska franchise more than any team he has played in and if not for the contract situation, he could have had a better PBA career.

Alvarez even took his talents overseas when the USBL's Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs signed him alongside Vince Hizon. While the move gained dividends for Alvarez as it has been a while since he had won a title (the ValleyDawgs won in 2004 under NBA star Darryl Dawkins), his PBA return was short-lived. Even if he started his PBA career young, he was still 36 years old at this point. None of his batchmates were still playing at this point and it's not like his final season was stellar (2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in five games).

For most PBA players, a lengthy team tenure is helpful for a prolonged PBA career. Alvarez finished his career with 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steals in 403 games. If only Alvarez was able to hook up with an owner that respected his game and did not burn bridges as he did, he would have had a better PBA career.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bong Alvarez could have had the PBA career other players would envy. As mentioned, he is Samboy Lim without the injury. But we also revere Samboy Lim for his off-court exploits and how he is a class act.

Alvarez bounced around from team to team, and his attitude made teams second-guess the idea of building a team around him.

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