Weghing In: The Trouble with the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players

It’s been more than a week since the PBA came out with fifteen new additions to its Greatest Players list. The furor over some of the selections, however, has yet to completely die down.

And who can really blame fans and pundits for critiquing some of the picks? It’s not like some of the players were chumps, of course. Now, if someone like, say, Rhoel (or is ti Roel?) Gomez made the list, THAT would be a bit of a travesty. 

It’s not really a question of “who deserves to be in” because, frankly, if that were the biggest factor, then everyone named and unnamed could be justified and the discourse would have no end.

Will any of these guys ever make The List?

For a list of the PBA’s 40 Greatest in its 40th anniversary, though, there is another major factor that should be considered. Aside from a player’s being deserving (achievements and stats could be viable measuring sticks), another thing to look at should be timing.
Timing is important because this list is finite, and we can assume it may be another ten years till the Top 50. Ideally, priority should be given to retired players and/or those who’ve played more than 10 years already. IMHO, guys who’ve been in the league for under ten years, no matter how strongly they’ve played, shouldn’t be given priority. Why? Simple. They’ll still get their shot in the next addendum to the list. 

Besides, leaving out retirees and veterans whose credentials are indisputable seems more of an injustice than including young ‘uns mainly on the basis of currency.

In a recent TV appearance, legendary former player Freddie Webb justified the inclusion of Talk N Text and Gilas Pilipinas guard Jayson Castro by saying, “Tatanda ka nga, eh hindi ka naman nakuha. Eh ‘di bata, kunin mo na.”

That’s good and all, but, with all due respect, I think the argument falls on itself. If we were to maybe follow that line of thinking, then perhaps an argument could be made for including Marlou Aquino in 2000 when the league named its Top 25 ever (that created a bit of controversy, too, as relatively young guys like Vergel Meneses, Kenneth Duremdes, and Johnny Abarrientos were named, while guys like Abe King, Arnie Tuadles, and Yoyoy Villamin among others were left out). 

Had the retirees and 10+ year veterans been named in THAT list, it would have been perfectly justifiable, and it also would have made sense for Aquino, Meneses, Duremdes, and Abarrientos to have been included in this year’s edition. Instead, many of the same guys left out of the Top 25 have been left out of the Top 40. It may be reasonable to expect they will continue to be left out in 2024 when the league completes its Top 50. By that time, the old-timers will have to contend with current young guns like Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks, June Mar Fajardo, and Greg Slaughter as well. 

The reality is with a list like this, the window of opportunity to be selected gets exponentially smaller with every passing selection period, so legacy should trump currency. Give priority to retirees and veterans because they no longer have time to prove themselves on the court. Their legacies are generally etched in stone, whereas younger ones are still building their body of work.

And, I mean, come on, guys like Pingris and Castro SHOULD be included in the next iteration, right? Unless another small committee decides other young studs deserve to bump them, of course.

And speaking of the small committee, maybe the next time the league decides to make a list, maybe a bigger committee would yield a smaller room for error. A hundred guys heterogeneously selected (former players, coaches, media men, fans, etc.) will provide a diverse base of perspectives and, at least in theory, should result in selections that will not extract so much vitriol.

As for guys like Danny Seigle, Olsen Racela, and Nelson Asaytono, will we ever see their names there? The way things are going, I seriously doubt.

And THAT is something they don’t deserve.

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