The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) are both well-known basketball leagues, but they are worlds apart. One is the best in the world, a lucrative enterprise with 30 teams each worth at least a billions dollars, with the New York Knicks the NBA’s most valuable franchise at $4 billion. The lowest ranked team, the Memphis Grizzlies, are valued at $1.2 billion. So it’s no wonder that the NBA is home to the planet’s greatest basketball players.
That is why making the NBA is every basketball player’s ultimate dream. It is a chance to play the sport at the highest level, and earn life-changing money in the process. The rookie minimum in the NBA is just short of $900,000 a month, while veterans earn between $1.7 million and $2.5 million. The very best, like LeBron James, earn north of $25 million annually. The 34-year-old Laker is featured among Ladbrokes highest paid players in the world list, and is second only to soccer great Cristiano Ronaldo. These numbers illustrate why making the big league is a big deal for players all around the world, including those in the PBA. Unfortunately for the basketball-crazy Philippines, no PBA player has made the jump to the NBA. The following players, though, should’ve made it:
Brown had a stellar two-year career at Pepperdine. In the 1979 NBA Draft he was drafted 59th overall by the Houston Rockets. But Brown flew over to the Philippines in 1982, and entered the PBA a year later. He was named MVP in 1985. By then The Quick Brown Fox was 28, and looked content playing in his home country. Brown would go on to be one of the PBA’s greatest players. Yet it is fair to wonder what could have been had he focused on making the Rockets roster in 1979.
Caidic is the greatest Filipino shooter ever. He once hit 17 treys in a PBA game — from 27 attempts. There is no doubt The Triggerman would’ve been a great marksman in the NBA, too – mainly because shooters will always have a place in the NBA. Steve Kerr, Dell Curry, and Jason Kapono were all great shooters, but offered little else. Yet each played over 10 seasons in the NBA. Shooting is a premium in basketball, and Caidic should’ve been shooting the lights out in NBA arenas in his prime.
Johnny Abarrientos was only 5-7, but he was Asia’s best point guard in the mid to late 90s. He had an uncanny feel for the game, and a nearly automatic midrange jumper. Then Charlotte Hornets consultant Joe Bettancourt took notice. He scouted The Flying A, and came away impressed. There were even plans for Abarrientos to sign a 10-day contract with the Hornets. But the plan never materialized. Had Abarrientos gotten that 10-day contract, chances are he’d do enough to win a roster spot.
Prime Caguioa was a natural scorer, with a good three-point range. He had previously starred at Glendale Community College in the U.S., before coming to the Philippines in the 2001 PBA Draft. Since then he has become one the league’s best, twice averaging over 20 points in a season (20.6 in 2005–06, 24.6 in 2006–07) and winning MVP honors in 2012. Rumor has it that long-time NBA scout Jim Kelly was impressed by Caguioa’s game, but rued his lack of height at 6 feet flat.
Norwood famously helped George Mason University reach the 2005–06 NCAA Final Four. Norwood recalled the experience with Fox Sports Philippines, calling it “an accomplishment in itself.” And Norwood was a big part of it as George Mason’s sixth man. At 6-5, Norwood best approximates the size of Jordan Clarkson, a proud Fil-Am who has made it to the NBA. Clarkson is the third ever NBA player with Filipino blood, and Norwood should’ve joined him in that list. But Norwood chose home. A move to the NBA is moot now, with Norwood soon to turn 35. But his savage slams against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup are reminders that Mr President should’ve played in the NBA.
The PBA has seen its fair share of athletic players. None was as athletic as Williams. He was solid in his four years playing at Oakland University, where he emerged as one of the team’s top rebounders. At 6-6 with elite athleticism Williams looked like an NBA player. But in 2004 Williams accepted an invitation to try out for the Philippine national team. And he has never looked back. Even so, Williams should’ve brought his high-wire act to the NBA, where he’d be a prototypical wing.
At his best Castro was Asia’s point god. Coach Charlie Parker of Chinese Taipei has seen Castro’s greatness up close, and he believes The Blur is NBA material. Unfortunately Castro’s past his prime, but his performance at the 2014 World Cup was something special. It also left no doubt that he should’ve been in the NBA.