That era came to a stunning end on Monday after the Beermen dealt the veteran forward to NorthPort in exchange for Vic Manuel.
The trade drew mixed reactions especially from San Miguel fans as it ended the 12-year Beermen career of Santos, who was a central figure in SMB team that won nine championships during that span.
Acquired in a trade with Burger King in 2009 in exchange for Marc Pingris, Ken Bono, and a draft pick, Santos was then one of the rising stars of the league but it will take two more years for him to capture a championship with the Beermen in the 2011 Governors’ Cup where he was also named the finals MVP.
As it turned out, it was just the start of a glorious run for Santos and the Beermen, who established themselves as the league's preeminent team later in the decade.
One might forget that before June Mar Fajardo won six straight MVP titles, Santos was the face of the franchise and in 2013, won the league's highest individual award in a season where Petron finished runner-up to San Mig Coffee in the Governors’ Cup.
More championships followed.
Santos won the Finals MVP award in the first of five straight Philippine Cup crowns in the 2014-2015 season when they beat Alaska. He was also part of the championship team the following year when San Miguel made history as the first and only team to come back from a 0-3 deficit to win the crown against Alaska.
He has won most of the individual awards in the PBA – two Best Player of the Conference plums, seven Mythical First Team, and four All-Defensive Team awards, all during his stay with the Beermen.
Even during the latter years, Santos remained a key player with San Miguel. Post-40 Santos still churned out good numbers in the 2021 Philippine Cup semi-bubble where he averaged 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks.
While he was there during the top moments of the franchise, he was also there during the lean years more known to fans as Petronovela.
Perhaps his most infamous moment during those days came in 2013 when Santos was choked by SMB import Renaldo Balkman late in their game against Alaska. That led to a lifetime ban for Balkman in the PBA that was later lifted in 2018.
Outside the Balkman incident, Santos got himself in a few more controversies as well, the most notable of which was when he made a monkey gesture directed at TNT import Terrence Jones during the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup. He drew a P200,000 fine.
Santos was also involved in a practice fight during the 2019 Governors’ Cup that involved import Dez Wells, Ronald Tubid, and Kelly Nabong that led to the import's departure and left the team's grand slam bid in tatters.
Even with the controversies, love him or hate him, there is no question Santos will go down as one of the Beermen’s greats.
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