Let’s just have two PBA conferences (local and reinforced) and unlimited local and international meets to replace the third conference! In this way, Gilas Pilipinas can still train and iron out their kinks and at the same time, a team could have a better preseason…
… Or postseason – for the non-SMC and TNT teams.
I mean, the league could even do a spot where the best non-PBA local teams can play in the PBA. We have often joked around that some PBA teams can’t hang with ABL teams, properly-managed college teams, or MPBL teams.
Let’s put this theory to the test!
With that said, what happens to the PBA grand slam?
As per PBA rules, you get a grand slam finish if you win three consecutive conferences in a single season. So far, the feat has been accomplished by four teams – with the Crispa Redmanizers becoming the only team to secure the feat twice.
But here’s the thing. In the new normal, maybe we can just drop the “single season” part of the “three consecutive conferences” thing. This is to make the feat relevant if the league is going to revert to “two conferences in a season moving forward” format. I am making a lot of air quotes but this is because I am going to do something that is there… but only actually exists on my mind.
The three-peat is an amazing stat because it gives a dynasty vibe. Unfortunately, the PBA does not recognize this because it goes beyond the single season. Nonetheless, scoring three consecutive championships – regardless of the inclusion of whichever format is just an insane feat.
In the revised grand slam version, who would make the list?
So check this out as I rank the eight teams that scored three-peat status in the PBA.
The game starts now!
8 | ALASKA MILKMEN (1997 TO 1998)
1997 | Governors’ Cup
1998 | All-Filipino Cup, Commissioner’s Cup
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 51 WINS AND 22 LOSSES (.699)
History time. Jeffrey Cariaso left the Milkmen in 1997 in a sign-and-trade for Pepsi’s Dwight Lago (Pepsi would change their name to Mobiline). The Milkmen would then flip Lago to Pop Cola for Kenneth Duremdes. I know, the Cariaso and Duremdes trades have other players included, but the small forward parts are the only parts we’re going to zero in. Anyway, in 1998, Alaska sacrificed their second grand slam to beef up the Asiad-bound Centennial Dream Team where Cone served coach and Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, and Kenneth Duremdes served as players. That team also included Bong Hawkins – although he served as a scout since he was also nursing an injury.
In actuality though, the Milkmen have already scored a three-peat – starting in 1997 with Kenneth Duremdes taking charge. His run during this span is so good that Duremdes was named MVP in 1998 despite missing the entirety of the Governors’ Cup. I kind of wish the league would revise their grand slam requirements for this factoid alone – as it would not only further the career importance of Captain Marbel but also help Bong Hawkins’ inclusion in a PBA Greatest Players list.
7 | SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN (2000 TO 2001)
2000 | Commissioner’s Cup, Governors’ Cup
2001 | All-Filipino Cup
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 45 WINS AND 19 LOSSES (.703)
As far as three-peats go, San Miguel has two. The second incarnation is arguably as dominant as the team’s 1989 grand slam core. From 1999 to 2001, the Beermen had five championships and two runner-up finishes. Danny Ildefonso is a sure entry on any PBA Greatest Players list due to his two MVPs and five BPC citations but the grand slam recognition could have helped the careers of Danny Seigle and Olsen Racela. It’s puzzling that Seigle and Racela are constantly snubbed. Heck, we would also see Jong Uichico in a different light if they counted the three-peat as a grand slam. The team also had Freddie Abuda, Nic Belasco, Boybits Victoria, Dwight Lago, and Mike Mustre for the entirety of the championship run with Dorian Pena and Art Dela Cruz in parts.
6 | SAN MIG COFFEE MIXERS (2013-14 TO 2014-15)
2013-14 | Governors’ Cup
2014-15 | Philippine Cup, Commissioner’s Cup, Governors’ Cup
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 55 WINS AND 38 LOSSES (.591)
Remember the days when the classic Alaska kid in front of their canned milk is said to be Tim Cone’s pre-adolescent version? Well, that legend became an afterthought when the grand slam mentor traded milk for coffee (although San Mig Coffee was initially called B-Meg Derby Ace). The team had previously won a couple of titles under the system of Ryan Gregorio but his contributions were dwarfed when Cone came into the fray. Rookie guard Mark Barroca and former Alaska ward Joe Devance would join forces with two-time MVP James Yap, Marc Pingris, and Peter June Simon to form a near-unstoppable core in the mid-2010s.
Of the four-win teams on this list, the Mixers are in the last place. The thing about San Mig Coffee is that they kind of coast the elimination round – heavily-relying on Marqus Blakely (twice) and James Mays. But come playoff time, James Yap becomes a monster on offense, Pinoy Sakuragi becomes a defensive menace, and Mark Barroca unleashes his Johnny Abarrientos-like form en route to their grand slam run.
5 | ALASKA MILKMEN (1995 TO 1996)
1995 | Governors’ Cup
1996 | All-Filipino Cup, Commissioner’s Cup, Governors’ Cup
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 68 WINS AND 29 LOSSES (.701)
On paper, it’s hard to trade Bong Alvarez to an undersized power forward named Bong Hawkins. The Hawk’s entry to the fold though started Alaska’s climb to the top. From the 1994 Commissioner’s Cup to its 1995 edition, the Milkmen scored three runner-up finishes. So yeah, it’s only a matter of time for the team had the Chicago Bulls colors to lay waste on their adversaries. With the presence of Tim Cone in the sidelines and with MVP Johnny Abarrientos, Hawkins, Jojo Lastimosa, import extraordinaire Sean Chambers, Poch Juinio, and Jeffrey Cariaso leading the way, this core won eight championships from 1994 to 1998 – including that awesome grand slam finish in 1996.
4 | SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN (1988 TO 1989)
1988 | Reinforced Conference
1989 | Open Conference, All-Filipino Cup, Reinforced Conference
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 67 WINS AND 27 LOSSES (.713)
After re-debuting at the tail end of the 1986 PBA season, San Miguel’s core of youth and former PBA MVPs destroyed their foes en route to a grand slam in 1989. I know the San Miguel’s core is IMBA, as they acquired the core of the Northern Consolidated Cement squad that actually scored a PBA title in 1985 – but back then, the country was changing from dictatorship to democracy. But with this in mind, the real beginning of the grand slam lore happened in the 1988 PBA Reinforced Conference with playing import-coach Norman Black teaming up with former NBA player Mike Phelps teaming up with Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Ricardo Brown, Yves Dignadice, and either Abet Guidaben or Ramon Fernandez. Actually, from 1987 to 1989, San Miguel won six of eight conferences. Phelps returned for the 1989 Open Conference while former NBA player Ennis Whatley helped the Beermen clinch the grand slam title in the Reinforced Cup.
3 | GREAT TASTE COFFEE MAKERS (1984 TO 1985)
1984 | Second All-Filipino Cup, PBA Invitational Championship
1985 | Open Conference, All-Filipino Cup
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 60 WINS AND 19 LOSSES (.759)
Tim Cone is listed in the PBA annals as the only coach to win two grand slams… on two different squads. Well in a revised version of the grand slam, Tim Cone is only the second man to do this. We all know that Baby Dalupan coached the Crispa Redmanizers to a grand slam in 1976. But then, The Maestro would repeat the feat in the mid-80s. After parting ways with the Redmanizers in 1982, Dalupan would move to the Great Taste Coffee Makers where he would eventually replace Jimmy Mariano as head coach. Under his guidance, GTC would score four consecutive titles from 1984 to 1985. Like in Crispa, Dalupan would have Adornado at the start of his dynasty only to lose the scoring legend again… to ironically, the team that is the direct genealogy of the Crispa Redmanizers (Adornado was traded to Shell for Willie Pearson and the chance to sign Abe King). Still, Dalupan has a great cast at his disposal like MVP Ricardo Brown, Manny Victorino, Chito Loyzaga, Jimmy Manansala, Joy Carpio, King, Pearson, Frankie Lim, and Pongkee Alolor.
It’s unfortunate that we rarely recognize how good the Coffee Makers are because four titles and three runner-ups in a span of three seasons is not an easy task… even at a time when the PBA was having a tough time adjusting to the country’s political turmoil.
Despite their superior win-loss record, I am going to drop this team a spot lower. One of their championships is an invitational one. And I guess a strong team can outperform their opponents especially if the participants are just around six. Lastly, I don’t really know much about the Coffee Makers. It’s not like they were like Crispa or Toyota – that has had a bunch of articles and documentaries written and produced about them. I was barely a kid during their height and apart from a few clips on Youtube, I have little to no recollection on their gameplay. This is not their fault but I guess one of the reasons why they were dominant is because the next team ceased to exist.
2 | CRISPA REDMANIZERS (1983 TO 1984)
OVERALL WIN-LOSS RECORD TIEBREAKER: 64 WINS AND 23 LOSSES (.736)
1983 | All-Filipino Cup, Reinforced Filipino Cup, Open Conference
1984 | First All-Filipino Cup
After unleashing hell on the Redmanizers in the 1982 PBA Invitational Tournament as coach of the San Miguel Beermen, Tommy Manotoc succeeded Baby “The Maestro” Dalupan as Crispa head coach with The Maestro eventually taking a consultant job in Great Taste. Needless to say, Manotoc drubbed the competition in 1983 – completing the league’s second grand slam with most of the old 1976 grand slam core and “The Black Superman” Billy Ray Bates. Crispa would then win their last title in the first conference of 1984 – but with a different coach. Manotoc resigned as the coach due to health reasons and was replaced by basketball legend Narciso Bernardo. The Redmanizers finished their PBA tenure with 13 championships in 10 seasons – including a 74 percent winning clip during that four-championship stretch.
And also, after Crispa won a four-peat… it must suck for the rest of the league that the Baby Dalupan-led Great Taste squad won a four-peat right after?
1 | CRISPA REDMANIZERS (1975 TO 1977)
1975 | All-Philippine Cup
1976 | First Conference, Second Conference, All-Philippine Cup
1977 | All-Filipino Cup, Open Conference
Let’s finish off the list with the inaugural winners. Baby Dalupan’s awesome core jumpstarted the whole grand slam movement as they ransacked all comers in the 1976 PBA season. With that said, grand slam annals remember the middle of the bunch and not the entirety of their greatness. Led by – at that point – two-time MVP winner Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co, Freddie Hubalde, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Rudy Soriano, and Bernie Fabiosa, the Redmanizers were able to latch on to six straight championships. Yes, Crispa did a double three-peat when the PBA was barely off its baby stages. They are practically the ones responsible for the dubious distinction their main rivals unearthed. Because in the same timeline, the Toyota Super Corollas lost four consecutive finals appearances after winning the league’s first two titles. Toyota would score the same “grand slam” feat in 1980 as the team lost to Crispa, U/Tex, and eventual PBA Invitational Champions Nicholas Stoodley.
The only other team in PBA history to have three-peat runner-ups are the Alaska Aces from the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup to the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
One of the teams that defeated the Aces is Rain or Shine – whose genealogy is traced back to the days of the Crispa Redmanizers.
Great Taste, Alaska, and San Miguel are great additions to this distinct group. I know three-peats are different from grand slams but in these changing times, they also need to expand this list. With the national team commitments as well as other major international leagues and their enticing offers, the PBA needs to iron the kinks and open their selves to other possibilities.
Outside tournaments will give the league better competition as well as exposure to other basketball programs. One thing I hope they’ll exercise is team classification with the best teams qualifying on the main tournament and the weaker teams relegated to the semi-pro scale. Elevated teams could then sign players from the relegated squads of their choosing on a loan basis – much like how football programs are in Europe.
I am getting off-course here but bottom line is that I really think the PBA is better off to do two conferences and unlimited outside tournaments.