THE PBA welcomed a guest team in the 2022-23 Commissioner’s Cup in the Bay Area Dragons. It was the first time in 18 years that a foreign squad played in the league, and first time after 11 years that the guest team format was re-introduced.
Guest teams have a rich history in the PBA. Here are some of their memorable, and forgettable, stints in the pro league.
In 1980, the Nicholas Stoodley team composed of American players captured the Invitational Cup via sweep of Toyota, the first foreign guest team to win a PBA crown. Future PBA imports Kenny Tyler and Larry Pounds led the Fashionmakers in a 118-113 win over Toyota to complete a sweep of the best-of-three series.
Nicholas Stoodley once again participated in the 1982 Invitational Conference but brought in the South Korea national team. Led by Lee Chung Hee, the Koreans placed third after beating Toyota in two games.
RP CENTENNIAL TEAM
As part of its preparation for the Asian Games, the Philippine Centennial Team took part as a guest team in the 1998 PBA Centennial Cup. However, the Nationals coached by Tim Cone and considered one of the best national teams in recent times after winning the Jones Cup title in Taipei, had a hard time against their contemporaries, winning only once in eight games.
The first foreign guest teams came to the PBA in 1977 and one of them was Emtex Brazil, which reached the final where it was defeated by Toyota for the Invitational crown. The most notable player in the Emtex Brazil line-up was Oscar Schmidt, considered one of the most prolific scorers in basketball history.
In the same conference that Nicholas Stoodley captured the 1980 Invitational crown, Adidas Rubberworld France also took part and finished in third place.
The Smart Gilas national team had an outstanding campaign in the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup where naturalized player Marcus Douthit, and future PBA players Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, Marcio Lassiter, Mark Barroca, and JVee Casio went on to reach the semifinals before being ousted by Barangay Ginebra.
Still the gold standard among guest teams, the Northern Consolidated Cement team of coach Ron Jacobs captured the 1985 Reinforced Conference via sweep of Manila Beer in the best-of-seven championship series. The team led by naturalized players Dennis Still, Jeff Moore, and Chip Engelland, along with Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, and Hector Calma. NCC had to beat Great Taste in a playoff for a finals berth before capping the sweep of Manila Beer with a 138-106 win.
OTHER GUEST TEAMS
While there were some successful guest teams in the PBA, there were also some who weren’t.
During the 1977 Invitational, Australian team Ramrod only had a 2-5 win-loss record.
After the NCC team, the Philippine national team also had stints as guest team in the 1980s but would only collect a 6-32 win-loss record in four seasons.
The 2004 Fiesta Conference featured two guest teams in the US Pro-Am Selection and University of British Columbia. They were outright quarterfinalist in the import-laced conference but both were winless in their three games. The underwhelming performance of the guest teams drew negative reaction from fans and even teams. “Get better teams next year,” said then-Alaska coach Tim Cone as quoted by the Inquirer. “I think they wouldn’t have even advanced to the playoffs had they played in the eliminations.”
Smart Gilas also had a stint in the 2010 Philippine Cup. They finished with a 3-6 win-loss record but the results of their games didn’t reflect in the standings of their opponent.
The 2003 Invitational Conference had four guest teams including KK Novi Sad from Yugoslavia, Yonsei University, and Magnolia-Jilin, all failing to make it to the next round. The Cebuana Lhuillier Philippine team also served as guest team in that competition as part of preparation for the Southeast Asian Games that year but only finished with a 1-3 record.