The Top Ten Basketball Stories of 2014

As always, basketball was top of mind in 2014 for most Pinoy sports fans. Milestones were set, records were broken, stars shone, while, on the other end of things, some expectations were not met and hearts were broken. It was a year of golden moments and moments that are better left in the dustbin of memory.

So now we look back at some of the most compelling basketball-related stories that came our way in the past 12 months. Please take note that I started writing this piece a few hours before 2014 ended, and I posted it after 2015 began. It’s a pretty interesting first, at least for me.

Some of the top basketball stories of this past year!

Without further ado, however, here are the top ten basketball stories of 2014. 

The Spurs win the NBA title.
San Antonio should’ve won the title back in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, but Ray Allen had other plans. Fast forward about twelve months later and the Spurs didn’t drop the ball anymore. Kawhi Leonard cemented his status as a future superstar with by being named Finals MVP and the trio of Timmy, Tony, and Manu pocketed another set of rings to add to their ever-growing collection.

San Antonio's Big Three with yet another Larry O'Brien trophy!
(image from

San Mig Super Coffee completes its Grand Slam.
Winning three straight conference titles wasn’t enough. The Mixers just had to win a fourth conference title in a row and, consequently, notch the first PBA Grand Slam of the new millennium. James Yap was Finals MVP for the second time in a row, while coach Tim Cone went down in history as the only PBA coach to ever get two Grand Slams. 

LeBron returns to Cleveland.
The tone was different. The medium was different. The reception was different. The objective? Still the same — to win an NBA title. This time, though, the King wanted his throne to be where it all began — in Cleveland. The overall theme of his relationship with his home state being “bigger than basketball” carried a completely different tenor compared to his “not one, not two, not three” way back in 2010, so, naturally, it wasn’t long before LBJ turned from heel to hero once again.

(image from

The PLDT Last Home Stand flops.
Ah, yes. The classic bait-and-switch. This was a shrewdly-marketed event that carried the implied promise of our Gilas Pilipinas national team squaring off against a talent-rich group of current NBAers. Kyle Lowry? Go. James Harden? Go. Tyson Chandler? Go. Damian Lillard? Go. Nick Johnson and Matt Barnes? Wait, what? Where were the promised superstars like Blake Griffin, Paul George, and Paul Pierce? In addition to the big name pull-outs, the even itself proved to be barely a shadow of its promise. Instead of seeing an exhibition game, fans were treated to a glorified “world class practice session.” Not surprisingly, chants of “REFUND! REFUND! REFUND!” rang throughout the Araneta Coliseum.

What a meme, Joey de Leon!
(image from

Manny Pacquiao gets drafted in the PBA.
Apparently, Pacquiao’s getting to the PBA wasn’t a joke after all. The world boxing icon, local politician (note: Pacquiao has one of the worst attendance records in Congress), and showbiz personality went the shortcut route to get drafted by a PBA expansion team he was going to coach. Here was a guy who never rose through the established ranks of Philippine basketball, bypassing all norms and conventions, to “fulfill his personal dream.” Man, if everyone enjoyed that sort of unique treatment, then we’d all be pros wouldn’t we?!

It happened. Nobody can ever take it back. Ugh.
(image from GMA News)

Team USA wins #Spain2014.
This wasn’t much of a shocker, of course, but when you consider how many superstars begged off from Team USA, and how many of the actual players in the final roster were “last minute replacements,” you should be able to appreciate the achievement this group was able to make. Don’t forget, too, that this is the fourth world title for Team USA in a row after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey, and the 2012 London Olympics. It sure seems like the Americans have learned from the debacle in 2006, and they’ve proven that even a team of second and third-tier stars can still beat the world’s best national teams by an average of 33 points a game. #Sick

James Harden led a dominant Team USA in #Spain2014.
(image from AP)

Gilas rises and falls.
It was a year of milestones and pitfalls for our proud national basketball program. On one end, Gilas was able to finish in the top three of the FIBA Asia Cup for the first time ever (Thank you, Paul Lee!) and the team played better than projected in #Spain2014, even notching a win against the Senegalese. Ironically, all these created bloated expectations in the Incheon Asian Games, where Gilas, reeling from several setbacks like injured key players and Andray Blatche’s being ineligible, crashed and burned in spectacularly dramatic fashion. The end result? A record-low seventh place finish for the national team and the eventual departure of coach Chot Reyes not just from the team but from the entire program. These developments, however, did pave the way for a new national coach to eventually step into the limelight in December and carry the unenviable burden of trying to pilot Gilas to another memorable run in 2015. Welcome to a nightmare dressed like a daydream, Tab Baldwin.

Thank you for a memorabl 2014, Gilas!
(image from FIBA)

NU wins #UAAP77.
Underdogs can win, and when they do, it’s absolutely amazing. The NU Bulldogs have endured six decades of futility in the UAAP, but they started a new chapter in 2014 by climbing to the top of the mountain after finishing fourth at the end of the eliminations. Coach Eric Altamirano’s wards had to beat top-seeded Ateneo twice and then had to withstand a tough-as-nails FEU quintet in the Finals to emerge victorious. It was a sublimely sweet victory for NU, which had endured as the league’s doormats before the Sys came in to support the school’s sports programs. Don’t forget that they also had to do this after top player Ray Parks had already left the UAAP.

Congratulations, NU! It was a looong time coming!
(image from GMA News)

Kobe Paras commits to UCLA.
One perpetual feel-good story that has been constantly developing revolves around former La Salle Green Hills stalwart Kobe Paras, who left Manila to join Cathedral High School in California. Before he even played his first official league game as a member of the Phantoms, Paras already got a slew of offers from US NCAA programs. What’s even more surprising? He already committed to joining the UCLA Bruins after he finishes his eligibility at Cathedral High. Should the nationally-ranked Paras continue on this trajectory, it won’t be far-fetched for him to be the first homegrown Filipino to actually make the NBA. 

Here's one highlight video of the promising young buck:

PBA Top 40 list stirs controversy.
Philippine basketball ended the year wrapped in controversy after the PBA released its list of Top 40 Greatest Players of All Time. The league had already released a Top 25 list more than a decade ago, but they added 15 more to make it an even 40, which coincided with the league’s 40th anniversary. The fifteen additional inductees were composed of ten former MVPs and five chosen by a “selection committee.” As can be expected with lists like this, not all of the players named to the Top 40 were well-received by the public. Basketball aficionados felt certain players were undeservedly left out of the Top 40 in favor of much younger cagers. Many also felt that the selection process was terribly flawed, which resulted in a lot of backlash from fans. Boy, I cannot wait till the PBA comes up with the Top 50 in ten years!

Here's formr Senator Freddie Webb trying his best to untangle the controversy:

So there you have it, the top ten basketball stories of 2014. The achievements and issues that arose this past year will be difficult to top, but given how things are shaping up in the local and international hoops scenes, it looks like 2015 might just eclipse all the noise and fury of the last twelve months.

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