THE revitalized Barangay Ginebra team is one of the major reasons why hopes are high last year’s record-breaking season of the PBA will likely be surpassed again.
League chairman Ramon Segismundo of Meralco said the Kings’ roster upgrade, capped by selecting big man Greg Slaughter with the year’s No. 1 overall pick, will mean heightened interest in the league’s most popular ballclub - and increased popularity for the league.
And that should augur well for a league that is coming off a record season which netted a total gate receipts of P200 million and broke existing attendance and television ratings records.
“I think, that’s doable (beating record). Ginebra’s roster has improved tremendously. So victories by the crowd favorite squad should mean bigger draw,” said Segismundo in expressing his awareness of the King’s drawing power.
“Admittedly, no doubt, Ginebra has a strong following. The fact that they (Kings) have revitalized their roster bodes well for the PBA,” said the amiable team official.
“And the fact that other teams have revitalized as well, we can see more balanced games,” the Meralco vice-president for corporate affairs added.
The league chairman is hoping Ginebra’s popularity will also cascade into the rest of the teams, which will lead to the total resurgence of Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
“Maganda ang following ng Ginebra, but I think it’s the collection of all the fans that will matter most. It’s the basketball nation that is the life blood of the league,” said Segismundo.
Even though Ginebra was swept by Alaska during the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, the throng of Ginebra supporters mostly made up the record paying fans of 23,436 that watched Game Three of the title series – easily the best-attended basketball game to be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Mark Caguioa, the team’s charismatic leader, declared Ginebra as the biggest crowd drawer in the PBA.
“I would say Ginebra will always be the number one attendance (getter) sa PBA. If Ginebra plays well, everything will come,” said the outspoken former league MVP.
Asked if his team is the most popular ballclub in the country, Caguioa said: “That’s not even a question.”
Team manager Alfrancis Chua said Ginebra supporters are always there, it’s just that proper stimulus must be in place to attract them to watch the games.
“Yung crowd naman ng Ginebra laging nandyan yan eh. Kaya lang naman namin na–break `yung record last season, kasi galing kami sa ilalim, tinalo namin mga bigating teams,” said Chua, who called the shots for the team in that record-setting game.
“Pero ngayon kumpleto ang lineup ng Ginebra, I guess `yung mga dating namatay na fans ng Ginebra, mabuhuhay ulit,” he said.