PBA players sounded genuinely excited at the thought of playing against Manny Pacquiao if the eight-division world boxing champion's plan to suit up as playing coach of Kia Motors pushes through.
That, however, has been in stark contrast to the reaction of most PBA fans, who have expressed anger or poured scorn on the prospect of seeing the 35-year-old global ring icon strutting his stuff in the pro league when Spin.ph broke the story on Thursday.
San Mig prized point guard Mark Barroca, however, said he wasn’t surprised by Pacquiao’s plan after having the privilege to play and talk with the boxing icon during a pick-up game just two months ago.
“Natanong ko kasi dati sa kanya na kung di siya boxer, ano kaya ginagawa niya ngayon. At ang sabi niya, nagba-basketball siya kasi gusto niya maglaro sa PBA,” Barroca told Spin.ph on Friday just hours before tip-off of Game One of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
But just like any other player, the 5-foot-10 Barroca believes Pacquiao will have to go through the process of applying for the rookie draft if he is to join the league roster.
“Pero ang decision ng board eh dumaan ang mga players sa draft. So kung ganun ang decision ng board, dapat sundin natin iyun,” he said.
During the time he played with Pacquiao in a pick-up game in General Santos last March shortly after San Mig won the Philippine Cup title, Barroca noted the boxing champ has a "good perimeter shooting," and is a certified basketball gym rat.
For his part, San Miguel Beer defensive ace Ronald Tubid said playing against the “Pacman” in the PBA will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which he would forever cherish.
“Why not? Iyung iba nga nagkakandarapa to see Manny, eh tapos kaming mga players and mga Pinoy (fans) can get a chance to see him play basketball and defend him,” said Tubid.
Tubid, a rugged defender, however, didn’t mince words when he said that once they are on the court, he will play hard-nosed defense on the 5-foot-6 boxer the way he does against other player.
“Siguro in having the chance to play against him, di ko naman ibig sabihin na di ko siya babantayan. But I’m gonna guard him as usual na ginagawa ko sa opponents ko,” said the 32-year-old native of Iloilo.
“Pero if ever man I play against Manny, baka sa depensa, may chance na maagawan ko siya pero di ko siya mana-knockout,” he added in jest.
Most cage fans, though, are cold on the idea of Pacquiao playing in Asia's first professional basketball league, bombarding Spin.ph's pages and social media accounts with messages generally saying it is "degrading" both for the league and its pro players.
But Barako Bull guard Roberts Labagala, who also idolizes Pacquiao, said the boxing great’s decision to join the PBA is something that everybody ought to respect.
“Okay lang naman, walang problema kahit na boxer siya at maging basketball player siya,” said Labagala, a native of Talisay City, Cebu. “Pero siyempre, kung pareho na kaming nasa loob ng court, wala nang bigayan kasi professionals na kami.”