MIKEE Romero is wearing many hats nowadays, including being the Deputy Speaker of the House and party list representative of 1-Pacman. But prior to being a public servant, Romero was and still is a sportsman where he enjoyed immense success in the world of basketball.
Romero is celebrating his 48th birthday, so it’s a perfect time to relieve some of his high times in basketball, from the amateur to the professional ranks.
Dynasty in the PBL
Romero’s first foray in basketball came in the Philippine Basketball League, and it was a successful one with the Harbour Centre franchise winning seven consecutive titles in the amateur cagefest.
The Port Masters/Batang Pier were the kings of the PBL from 2006 to 2009, beating teams such as Toyota-Otis, Hapee, Cebuana Lhuillier, and Magnolia along the way. The franchise changed its name to Oracle Residences in 2009, but the winning tradition continued as it defeated Pharex in the Unity Cup for its final title in the PBL.
Aside from the titles, several standouts passed through the Harbour Centre franchise before moving in the PBA such as Jayson Castro, LA Tenorio, and Mark Barroca, who won a finals MVP in their tenure with the franchise before going pro.
First ABL champion
Following their success in the PBL, Romero shifted his focus abroad in 2009 where he formed the AirAsia Philippine Patriots to banner the country in the newly-formed Asean Basketball League (ABL). Immediately, Romero’s ballclub enjoyed success in the regional league by ruling the inaugural 2009-2010 season.
During that campaign, the Patriots coached by Louie Alas finished the regular season with an 11-4 record, and went on to sweep the playoffs where they beat the Kuala Lumpur Dragons in the semifinals and the Satria Muda Britama in the finals. Warren Ybanez was named the finals MVP while Jason Dixon was adjudged as the Best Import of that season.
The Patriots played in the ABL until in 2012 after Romero bought the Coca-Cola franchise and join the PBA. Still, the ballclub became one of the reasons for the development of the Southeast Asian basketball over the years.
Kings of Southeast Asia
Prior to its championship in the ABL, Romero was already marking a mark in the region by supporting the national team to two Southeast Asian tournaments in 2007 beginning with the Seaba Champions Cup where Harbour Centre ruled the competition, beating Satria Muda Britama for the team’s first-ever international title.
Romero also bankrolled the national team bound for the Southeast Asian Games in Nakhon Ratchasima where head coach Junel Baculi formed an amateur squad that went on to become big names in the professional ranks such as Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, Jeff Chan, and Jervy Cruz. The Philippines won the gold, capping the performance with a 94-53 win over Thailand for a four-game sweep.
Banner year in the PBA
Romero moved to the PBA with the purchase of the Coca-Cola franchise in 2012. Under the name GlobalPort, however, the team didn't enjoy much success like in the amateur ranks as it only reached the semifinals once over the course of a six-year period since entering the pro league. The Batang Pier finally had a breakthrough year in 2019 for their first winning season ever in the franchise.
Under the NorthPort name, the Batang Pier finished second in the Commissioner’s Cup, their best finish in the elimination round following the breakthrough conference of Sean Anthony, Mo Tautuaa, rookie Robert Bolick, and import Prince Ibeh. The team, however, was stunned by eventual champion San Miguel after overcoming a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
The Governors’ Cup saw NorthPort struggle early but racked up the much-needed victories to finish eighth in the eliminations. But behind the efforts of Anthony and newly-acquired Christian Standhardinger, the Batang Pier pulled off an upset, ousting top-seed NLEX to reach the semifinals. NorthPort lost to Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals, but it remained a landmark conference with Standhardinger becoming the first Batang Pier player to win a Best Player of the Conference award.