I THINK one of the things basketball fans in the country, especially the NBA and PBA fans, are missing out on when they follow only leagues like the NBA and PBA is the intense battle to fight relegation. I think more tears are shed -- or more alcohol is spilled -- in the intense relegation battle than in the battle for the top spot.
Football fans know about such battles. Basketball fans of football-centric Europe, where leagues follow the relegation-promotion system of football, know such battles.
We don’t, of course, because we follow the NBA format, where the teams that finish dead last get a bigger chance at the No. 1 pick.
One of my biggest fantasies has always been for Philippine basketball to have a relegation-promotion system since I believe that will solve so many of the inherent problems of our basketball structure. But that can’t be done since the biggest fantasy of most is for the PBA to follow the NBA and have community-based teams.
But perhaps there is hope. Chooks-to-Go chief executive officer Ronald Mascariñas, in response to fans’ clamor, is holding a champions-league type of event pitting the champions of the MPBL, the VisMin Cup and the NBL. I think this is the very first time that a major basketball stakeholder has responded to clamor by fans. The PBA? Naah. Every single time the fans get riled up about something, the league’s move, it seems, is to wait for it to die down until the next controversy comes.
This Champions League could be a game changer. Normally, local commercial circuits are so protective that they’d put up all sorts of rules that would bar their teams, players from playing other leagues. This Champions League smashes that notion down since it will answer the question, “Which champion is better?”
And that rekindles my dream of a basketball structure in the country that does away with the PBA format but adopts the football format. You basically have the three leagues -- MPBL, VisMin Cup and NBL -- and of the three, we can safely consider MPBL to be the top and the next would be a toss-up between the VisMin Cup and the NBL. We could have, say, the bottom three of the MPBL getting relegated to the VisMin Cup, and the top three of the VisMin earning promotions to the MPBL. And, subsequently, the bottom three and the top three of the VisMin and NBL changed places.
With that kind of format, no bottom team will be tanking their end-of-season games.
But that would mean one body will have to oversee the three leagues. Exactly. Which would solve one particular problem in our pro leagues where the different fiefdoms protect their own. Of course, that would also mean one uniform rule for player movement up and down the ladder. No pesky threat of bans as the MPBL did the VisMin.
That’s a long way from happening, of course. But Chooks-To-Go’s Champions League showed me that perhaps it may not be such a far-off dream. If they can adopt club football’s biggest tournament, then perhaps they can also adopt what makes club football different from US or Philippine basketball. Chooks-To-Go. From Masarap kahit walang sauce to the company who dared.