CHICAGO - With his striking good looks and graceful demeanor, 6-foot-4 Dwight Ramos would have towered over the PBA as one of its next big stars for years to come.
Having previously committed to Ateneo, a bridge that often leads to the MVP Group in the pro circle, the versatile 23-year old Fil-Am could have been the knight in shining armor that empowers TNT to storm the SMC castle.
Not anymore. Not now at least.
Like that magic dragon in Peter, Paul and Mary's ballad, Ramos went puff, his roar snatched by the Toyoma Grouses of the Japan B League.
As the number of talents eloping to the land of Toyota continues to rise, the PBA is once again left at the altar of scorn and ignored.
One leak is fine. Two is okay. Heck, three is a mere pest.
KUME MARCIAL, YOUR LEAGUE HAS A PROBLEM.
The PBA still has a lot of awesome hoopers but most of them treat interviews like it were a dental appointment and would come across as awkward and unwilling.
The Ravena brothers, Thirdy and Kiefer, Kobe Paras and Dwight Ramos are giant personalities who had the star power to keep the PBA relevant and marketable. They're now Japan's gems.
Marcial and his cohorts in the league office must be banging their heads thinking of creative ways to plug the leak.
Well, I'm not smart like the Study Group, but I know enough to know that there's no stopping this exodus.
Not when the pay out there is nearly ten times more while the quality of life - housing, living conditions, transpo and pandemic management - is inarguably better.
The PBA can't stop the bleeding. It can, however, make their league more exciting. Which leads to increased attendance, more eyes on the TV sets, more sponsorships, and ultimately, more revenues.
How exactly can the PBA, currently hemorrhaging at a semi-bubble in Bacolor,Pampanga, do all this?
LET CHOOKS-TO-GO JOIN THE LEAGUE.
It would require some gymnastics given that the PBA is an old, rich man's party that frowns on outsiders who crash in with their new money.
If Blackwater, a blot in the league with their history of losing that includes a listless 0-8 record in this conference, wants to maintain their franchise, let them.
But give one to Chooks.
Chooks in the PBA creates instant rivalry on many fronts. It's owner Ronald Mascarinas has a history with the MVP Group that led to a bitter divorce.
Who doesn't want to see that acrimony play on the basketball court?
Mascarinas didn't send Christmas cards to the fine folks at SBP, whom he accused of pulling the 3x3 rug from under his company. Many of SBP's people are from the MVP Group.
Who doesn't want to see this feud grow into a 5x5 beef?
Mascarinas has more money than some banks. He won't mind no salary caps, either. In other words, San Miguel will find its match.
Assemble the board, Kume.
Fun in the PBA is waning without the eight guys who left, but with Chooks entering, the party begins.