ASIDE from the championship, PBA teams in the past also got a chance to play for a third-place trophy, a sort of consolation to those who were unable to reach the finals despite their solid play in the conference. The Battle for third was played since the league’s inception from 1975 to 2010 before it was abolished.
In 2013, former PBA commissioner Chito Salud explained the decision to remove the battle for third, saying that the teams no longer play their full effort in such games.
“And this is understandable after the teams have just been ousted in a hard-fought semifinal series. Thereafter, they tend to just go through the motions in playing for third place,” said Salud.
“We think that while this behavior is consistent with normal human behavior, the lack of desire to compete under the circumstances does not interest the fans,” he added.
Despite that notion, the battle-for-third matches still have a place in the minds of the fans. And in this piece, we look at a few facts of the now-defunct games.
1. Aside from the distinction of having the most championships in the league, San Miguel has the most third-place trophies in the league with 15.
2. The third-place trophy was determined in many ways during its existence – through knockout matches, and even in a best-of-three or best-of-five series.
3. The first winner of third place was U-Tex, which beat Royal in a series including a 125-113 victory in Game 4.
4. Talk ‘N Text and B-Meg battled in the last third-place game in history, with the Tropang Texters winning, 113-95, in the 2010 Fiesta Conference. Third-place games, however, started to become underwhelming during their later days as rued by TNT coach Chot Reyes. “These are the worst games to play. I don’t even understand why we play for third place. It’s a stupid game. Let’s face it, nobody comes out and plays hard in these games. We should do away with these games,” said Reyes as quoted by GMA. The statement eventually led to the demise of the battle-for-third.
5. Another quote from then Tanduay coach Alfrancis Chua after winning the third-place match against San Miguel in the 2000 All-Filipino Cup: “It was as if we ordered an Expedition and we were given a Corona instead.”
6. Despite the notion of third-place games being irrelevant, there were intense moments. One of the infamous ones was Game 4 of the Reinforced Conference were a brawl occurred between Anejo and Presto. The fracas ensued after a hard foul by Anejo import Tommy Davis on Prestos’ Philip Cezar, with the fight spilling over in the stands after Joe Ward leaped over the bench area to attack Cezar.
7. San Miguel and Sta. Lucia figured in all battle-for-third matches in 1997, with the Beermen winning two out of three. One of its victories came in the Commissioner’s Cup when San Miguel, playing with only eight men and without an import following its grueling playoff match against Gordon’s Gin, won, 96-95, on a game-winner by Allan Caidic.
8. The first foreign team to win third place was France-based Adidas Rubberworld, which captured it in the 1980 Invitational Conference.
9. The South Korean national team is also one of the third-placers of the league after competing in the 1982 Invitational Championship. A member of that team was Lee Chung Hee, who captured the MVP in the 1987 ABC Championship (now Fiba-Asia Championship). The third-place clincher was marred by a fight, but once cooler heads prevailed, the South Koreans won over Crispa, 142-107.
10. Third-place games also saw oddities. Tanduay won third place in the 1985 All-Filipino Conference against Ginebra despite the series being 2-2. Following the conclusion of the championship series between Great Taste and Shell won by the Coffee Makers, the knockout game for third was no longer played with the Rhum Masters determined as the winner due to a higher quotient.
11. Even though Northern Consolidated was assured of third place after its Game 4 win over Beer Hausen, the fifth match of the best-of-five series was still played with the Brewmasters taking the final match. The series ended officially with NCC winning, 3-2.
12. The last game of Norman Black in the PBA was actually in a third place game when he became a replacement import for Pop Cola, the team he was coaching during the 1998 Commissioner’s Cup. Black finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds to lift Pop Cola to an 84-80 win over Shell.
13. The oldest-known PBA game footage, at least on YouTube, is a battle-for-third match in the 1976 Second Conference with Royal beating U-Tex, 104-99.
14. The 1994 Commissioner’s Cup third-place series between Swift and San Miguel became a Swift-RP Team tune-up series as part of the preparation of the national team for the Asian Games that same year since the core of the squad was composed of the Beermen squad that earned the right to represent the country in Hiroshima for winning the All-Filipino Conference.
15. Ginebra import Michael Hackett scored 103 points in Game 1 of the Reinforced Conference on November 21, 1985. The explosive Hackett tallied 55 points in the second half and 33 points in the third quarter to shatter 88-point mark set by Larry McNeill in 1983 for most points scored by an import in a game. The record was broken seven years later by Tony Harris of Swift after making 105 points.
Did we miss some facts? Do you have your own memories about the third-place trophy. Hit the comments section.