MEMBERS of the Manila Metrostars team that won the 1999 Metropolitan Basketball Association title said the MBA's passionate fans remained unmatched by any other league, including those from the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).
Players and coaches of the Manila team said they will never forget how the fans rooted for or against the Metrostars, making the MBA experience so unforgettable.
“’Yun ang saya ng MBA. When you went to a venue, either everybody hated you or everybody loved you. Walang halo,” said former Metrostars player Alex Compton when asked by SPIN during a coaching webinar organized by Hoop Coaches International.
The Metrostars were the second national champion of the league after taking the 1999 crown behind Compton and Romel Adducul. On their way to the crown, Manila strung up 22 straight victories before beating Cebu in the championship.
Compton recalled one game during their 22-game winning run where the crowd at the Rizal Memorial College gym was as loud as it can be rooting for the hometown Davao Eagles.
“Kalaban namin was Davao sa gym nila. Mababa ‘yung bubong, may mga fences sa second story. ‘Yun ang panahon nila Donbel Belano. Malakas din ‘yung team nila at dahil sa winning streak, meron talagang malaking target sa dibdib natin,” said Compton.
“I’ve been in gyms when coach Luigi led us to a championship in Alaska, 23,000 people in Araneta is a record. I’ve been in gyms with 18,000 people when I played in college. This was the loudest I ever heard in a single game. I was bringing the ball down, sa sobrang ingay ng mga fans, I can’t hear my voice.
“As I was bringing the ball down, I was smiling because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My ears hurt because of this and I couldn’t even hear myself,” said Compton.
Several years after the MBA folded up, the regional format has since been adapted by the MPBL. But Manila coach Louie Alas and his assistant Ariel Vanguardia believe the MBA have the more passionate fans.
Alas said the passion extended to the league’s team owners. He recalled a time when one team owner’s passion went way overboard.
“Twice nangyari sa game ito. We were playing an away game. Ako ‘yung coaching ko, hindi ko sadya pero most of the time without me noticing, nasa loob na ako ng court. Naglalaro kami away game. Before the game, lumapit sa akin ‘yung team owner, galit na galit.
"Sabi sa akin, ‘Wag mong gagawin dito ‘yung lagi kang pumapasok, babarilin kita dito.' Sabi ko sige pero tandaan mo boss, pag pumunta ka sa homecourt namin, walang pupunta sa 'yo para takutin ka. Bibigyan ka pa namin ng magandang upuan.
“In short, natalo kami doon and the following day, siguro nakonsensya, pumunta sa hotel, pinagising ako, niyaya ako mag-coffee. Hindi siya nag-sorry pero naisip niya siguro na nagkamali siya.
"Ganun ka-passionate ‘yung mga team owners. Talagang halos nagagawa nila ‘yung mga bagay na hindi dapat gawin. Gusto lang nila magkaroon ng edge.”
During the Manila-Cebu finals, Vanguardia remembered that the two LGUs had a friendly bet against each other.
“Nagpustahan pa ‘yung mga mayor ng Manila at Cebu. Nagpustahan pa sila ng bigas para ibigay sa constituents nila. Involved ang local government. Fun memories ‘yung Metrostars being a rookie professional coach. Iba ‘yung experience,” said Vanguardia.
Alas and Vanguardia agree that home-and-away format which the MBA strictly followed fed the fervor of the fans.
The MPBL adopts the home-and-away format only in the playoffs to cut cost.
“Ngayon, hindi ko yan masyado nakikita sa MPBL kasi hindi masyado ‘yung home-and-away. Home-and-neutral pa lang ito. Sana magkaroon sila ng ganun,” said Alas.
Vanguardia, who is currently part of the coaching staff of Manila’s MPBL team, though understands that the MPBL is looking for sustainability, learning from the lessons that led to the MBA’s demise in 2002.
“Sa akin kasi, ‘yung MPBL, hindi lahat home and away. ‘Yung MBA kasi, home and away. If we are playing in Bacolod, doon talaga sa Negros ‘yung away game. Dito neutral venue. Kaya na-build talaga ‘yung rivalries dahil sa home and away.
“’Yung MPBL, because of the constraints with the budget, hindi kayang ma-sustain ‘yung travelling and expenses. ‘Yun din ang naging downfall ng MBA. Hindi na-sustain ang gastos. Matse-cherish mo talaga ‘yung home and away format (sa MBA). Para sa akin, nakaka-miss ‘yung ganung pagkakataon,” Vanguardia said.
Compton said the backing of ABS-CBN played a huge part in building the MBA's passionate fan base.
“Let’s remember that the backing of ABS-CBN was really big because the cost of travel was so expensive. Player lang tayo noon, hindi natin alam ‘yung investment nila pero ang alam namin, malaki talaga ang investment nila,” said Compton.