PBA Greatest Team
Written by: Rey Joble
If one looks back at the rich history of the Philippine Basketball Association, one will find several great teams that have certainly left a mark in memory.
Some of them have established dynasties in Asia’s first professional league. Others left a legacy that Filipino basketball fans will remember for a long time.
The Crispa Redmanizers, owner of 13 championships and the only team that captured two grand slam titles in the history of the PBA, is certainly one of them.
In fact, 25 years after establishing their second grand slam, the squad, then handled by multi-titled mentor Tommy Manotoc and bannered by super import Billy Ray Bates, Abet Guidaben, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Freddie Hubalde and Bernie Fabiosa, among others, is touted by many as the best ever assembled in the 34-year history of the league.
These five players ended up as members of the PBA’s 25 Greatest, an accomplishment that speaks well of the Redmanizers’ dominance that lasted for 10 years.
Other members of that elite squad were Yoyoy Villamin, Padim Israel, Bai Cristobal, Itoy Esguerra, Tito Varela, Ramon Cruz and Bates’ partner Larry Demic.
And then there’s Bates.
He was a star for Jack Ramsey’s Portland Trail Blazers in the National Basketball Association, but was banned from action for alleged use of marijuana. Nevertheless, his talent was hard to ignore that he was given a 10-day contract by the Los Angeles Lakers and later on by the Lumberjacks in the Continental Basketball Association.
While there, he was spotted by Manotoc.
“I told boss Danny [Floro] that if we could bring him in to the Philippines, we have a good chance of becoming champions again,” said Manotoc, who took over the reins from the legendary Baby Dalupan.
Dalupan resigned as coach of the Redmanizers at the end of 1982 season, the only other year aside from 1978 that the team was shutout a title. Ironically, Manotoc was the opposing coach when The Maestro and his Crispa unit lost to the San Miguel Beermen in the Invitationals.
But 1983 was indeed historic for the Redmanizers as Bates took the PBA by storm. And imagine if Crispa had lured Ricardo Brown, then a rookie in that same year, Crispa might have won not just 13 championships. It could have extended their dominance until the end of the 1984 season.
But Brown went on to Crispa’s rival in ’83—Great Taste, handled by Jimmy Mariano and yes, Dalupan. Nevertheless, there was no stopping Bates and Co. in giving the Redmanizers their second grand slam.
Despite failing to grab Brown, the Redmanizers recorded the longest winning streak in the history of the PBA—a total of 21 games bridging the 1983 All-Filipino and the Reinforced Conference.
After dropping its opening game of the season to arch-rival Toyota, 84-86, in the All-Filipino, the Redmanizers won six straight games to top the elimination. They swept their single round semifinals to barge into the championship round and again brought out the broom against Gilbey’s Gin en route to winning the crown in the best-of-five series.
They continued their winning ways beginning May 15, 1983 at the start of the Reinforced Conference with Bates in tow. It was an exhausting 21-game winning streak, but the Redmanizers were like a well-oiled machine 25 years ago that they were ready to dismantle every team blocking their path. It was a long chase for the squad that made winning a habit in 1983.
The record remained unmatched until today.
The closest team to match that accomplishment was no less than the Redmanizers themselves, who posted the previous longest winning streak of 19 straight games en route to winning the 1980 All-Filipino championship.
Source: PBA history are from here.