A nationwide party was in the works to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the PBA.
In a wink of an eye, though, everything vanished into thin air.
No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that came along like a thief in the night, everything to commemorate the league’s more than four decades of existence has been shelved.
“Ang dami dapat plano. May exhibit tayo ng mga litrato at paraphernalia sa mga venues hindi lang sa Metro Manila, pero pati sa mga probinsiya pinapakita yung history ng PBA,” said commissioner Willie Marcial.
“Tapos yung mga legends iikot din. Sa mga games manonood sila and ia-acknowledge natin,” he added. “Kaso wala tayong choice. Yung safety ng lahat ang priority natin.”
The PBA saw birth on April 9, 1975 when it held the first-ever doubleheader in league history at the Araneta Coliseum before a crowd of 18,000.
Four of the nine pioneer teams saw action that day.
Mariwasa-Noritake featuring import Israel ‘Cisco’ Oliver of the famed Alaska Milk commercial (‘Alaska, men,’) exploding for 48 points to lead his team to a 101-98 win over Carrier Concepcion in the first game.
To Oliver also belonged the first turnover recorded in the league when he committed a stepping violation just seconds into the game.
Carrier Concepcion guard Gregorio ‘Joy’ Dionisio, however, wrote his name on the hallowed history of Asia’s pioneering pro league when he scored the first-ever basket in PBA history. The former national team member who was part of the Philippine squad that won the 1972 Asian Youth Championship finished with 10 points in a losing cause.
The main game had the star-studded Toyota Comets beating U-tex, 105-101. Rodolfo ‘Ompong’ Segura led the team with 23 points while Francis Arnaiz added 22.
Toyota superstars Ramon Fernandez and Robert Jaworski had 13 and 11 points, respectively in their PBA debuts.
Marcial planned to invite some of these pioneer players to the 45th anniversary celebration which was to be held on April 12 (Easter Sunday) since April 9 is a Holy Thursday.
“Sila Com Mon (Fernandez), si Senator Jaworski, tapos yung iba pang pioneer players iimbitahin dapat namin yan,” he said.
The Easter Sunday twinbill was supposed to have five-time defending Philippine Cup champion San Miguel taking on Barangay Ginebra in the featured game and Blackwater battling Columbian Dyip in the curtain raiser.
Marcial said the league intends to go on with the anniversary celebration – albeit a simple one – once the health crisis is over and the league resuming the stalled season with the Philippine Cup.
Still, nothing feels like having it done close to the same date the PBA was born.
“Siyempre iba pa rin yung atmosphere,” said the PBA chief.