The PBA recently announced that they are set to undergo a major revamp after the Board of Governors’ met a few days ago. The details of the meeting are obviously not disclosed but they talked openly about the need to re-structure the league in time for the 41st season, especially as the league continues to grow in size (with the total team count reaching 12 and an additional three more in the pipeline according to PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio).

This entails a lot including re-structuring the roles and the organization of the PBA.


Histrionics aside, I think the league has a great opportunity here to capitalize on what is clearly the pinnacle of the PBA’s resurgent years. I’m too young to remember what the general sentiment was back in my pre-cognitive years (or at least, the years when I wasn’t a free-spirited fellow) but I do know that the PBA is on the upswing.

But trends can be a tricky thing to handle. Handled the wrong way and the odds of you getting a significant upswing goes down. That’s because people will feel cheated and betrayed. They’ll lose trust and they’ll have a hard time jumping into the bandwagon again. Do this right and the PBA could rocket itself forward into its new golden age, one that toes the line well between modernization and commemoration. How might they go doing that?

1. Accept the new world order

The world is entering the prime years of the digital age and with that comes the understanding that your online presence is an invaluable tool in creating a product that lasts. For the PBA, this means improving on this atrocity:

pba website

There’s a lot of missed opportunity here: the font, the big, bold, italicized headings, the lack of unity in design and overall the hodgepodge look of the site. The PBA has to understand that although they do get quite a bit of traffic on their site (thanks in large part to a Twitter base of 132K followers and a Facebook page with well over 1.5 million likes), nobody is particularly happy about it.

Their website (and their online portfolio) is much like the public transportation in the Philippines: no one is happy using it but everyone still does only because they have to and until someone makes a fuzz about it, nothing is going to change.

It’s a shame really because for a country so proud of its deep-seated connection with basketball and ranks 16th in total number of internet users, the lack of a good online presence from the premier basketball league in the country is disconcerting.

 2. Transparency is key

The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.

– Simon Mainwaring

It’s no secret that one of the keys to creating a successful brand is transparency. Transparency builds trust, cultivates relationships and helps empower the consumer. To quote:

Companies that build authentic relationships with their customers are not only rapidly gaining market share, they’re gobbling up mind and heart share by putting buyers in control and enabling them to make better, more appropriate choices.

Many early-stage consumer companies focus on product and lead with functionality. While this is undeniably important, the brands investing in building relationships with consumers that are finding more success in the long and short-term.

Brand loyalty is the foundation of every successful consumer business. Large players are actively acquiring early-stage brands that have figured this out. Consumer startups can learn a lot from them.

The PBA is an indelible brand in the minds of Filipinos. Is it a successful brand? I don’t know actually. It’s endured through 40 seasons, one competition (RIP MBA) and a slew of controversies ranging from the mundane to potentially damaging. But the brand has endured (again, probably because of its monopoly of a market segment) and that’s partly a success in and of itself. But success is more than just quantity. It’s also about quality. And in that regard, the PBA has put out a below average product.

Nobody trusts their brand because Nobody knows anything.

Somebody knows something but he’ll probably never go out on record because management will crucify him.

Anybody could inquire on this but nobody dares to try.

And Everybody is left wondering what the hell is going and why.

Businesses are required to submit an audited annual and financial report. If we can all agree that the PBA is a business (or at least operates like one), why are they not allowed to publish annual reports?

No one is asking for the PBA to spill the beans on their trade secrets but at least a handbook would help. The NBA has its CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and League Rulebooks available to the public. Meanwhile, this is all I could muster when I search for the PBA’s rules:

The PBA has a hybrid of FIBA and NBA rules:[20]

  1. A game consists of four 12-minute quarters, the NBA standard.
  2. The three-point line’s distance is set back to 6.75 m (22.1 feet), which is the FIBA’s three-point distance for international competitions.
  3. Post up players can now muscle their way into the basket without automatically getting a foul called.
  4. A player can now hang on the rim after a dunk without getting called for a technical foul.
  5. Zone defenses are allowed.
  6. A team enters the penalty situation after the fifth foul in a quarter, with each successive foul entitling the fouled player to two free-throw attempts. In the last two minutes of regulation, teams are only allowed one foul to give, as in NBA rules. Overtime periods allow each team two fouls in the first three minutes and one foul in the last two minutes, as in NBA rules.
  7. Newcomers enter the league via a draft.
  8. Non-Filipinos can play as “imports” and only in certain conferences. Currently in the Commissioner’s Cup, imports with the height limit of 6’9 are allowed to play. In the Governor’s Cup imports within the height limit of 6’5″ are allowed to play.
  9. The league implements the Trent Tucker Rule.
  10. An advantage foul, similar to the “unsportsmanlike foul” of FIBA rules, is called when the offensive player is fouled by an opposing player while in a fastbreak situation without going for the ball. The offense is given two free throws and regains the ball.

I could read about FIBA rules as well to get a better idea of what these “hybrid” PBA rules are (although that statement did not officially come from the league).

But what about trades? I’m left scouring the internet for every bit of news. Most of the news are actually just reports on what happened after a board meeting that was focused on those matters. Nothing’s collated and everything’s disorganized. I think it’s high time they made all of that information publicly available.

In this way, the public can check whether trades are valid on their own, without waiting for reports. Going back to the original point, transparency builds trust and long-term business viability depends on trust, especially for a league that has its business tied so closely to marketing:

I think the important perspective is, we are not a revenue-based league. Everything is tied with marketing, so what the fans feel or think is crucial to the league.

– Tim Cone

3. More cohesive season

The PBA currently has three conferences with different rules. It has a no-import conference (All-Filipino Cup) and two import-laden conferences. That means each season, the league has three champions. If one team wins all three championships, they are crowned as the Grand Slam champions, as the Purefoods Star Hotshots did in the 2013-14 season.

To me, this should be a big part of the PBA’s re-organization.

Ideally, we would have one big All-Filipino conference — a double round robin format would give us a total of 264 regular season games, which would take about 29 weeks (or 7 months) to finish. Add about a month of playoff games and it’s about an 8 month-season each year — giving the players ample time to rest/recuperate and train (for international tourneys) whilst giving the league an offseason to hype things up.

But that’s never going to happen because:

a. Imports are an important part of increasing the “quality” of play in the league.

There was some truth to this as the league average points per possession (a sign of quality of play) goes up in import-laden conferences. Below is the table detailing this:

Year Conference League Average PPP (/100)


Philippine Cup 98.4


Commissioner's Cup 96.1


Governor's Cup 99.9


Philippine Cup 97.2


Commissioner's Cup 99.2


Governor's Cup 103.1


Philippine Cup 96.5


Commissioner's Cup 98.7

This issue should have a fix (i.e. level of competition going down without an import conference) — just organize an international tourney for our Gilas team during the 3~4 month off season. But there’s another issue.

b. Imports help even the field.

That’s more evident now that it’s ever been with a Barako Bull (perennial farm team) and Kia team (expansion team on its first year) that’s vying for a playoff spot. In fact, the Philippine Cup has, historically, had the highest mean absolute deviation (MAD) — or the spread of the data set — among the three conferences.

Year Conference SD


Philippine Cup 2.4


Commissioner's Cup 1.6


Governor's Cup 1.2


Philippine Cup 2.4


Commissioner's Cup 1.9


Governor's Cup 1.3


Philippine Cup 2.3


Commissioner's Cup 1.2

What this means is that most teams fall somewhere between +/- 2.4 wins of .500 (which in the past, meant a 7-7 record. This season, it’s a … 5-6? or 6-5? Whatever) during Philippine Cup conferences. That number goes down — i.e. team winning percentages are much closer to each other — when we start looking at Commissioner’s Cup and Governor’s Cup conferences.

There are a number of solutions available here but the gist is that the PBA has to fix their schedule mainly to help our national team prepare better (international tourneys are usually held around August to Semptember).

My preference is for the league to just have one HUGE season (double round robin + playoffs) and then schedule it in such a way that the national team gets to practice and/or play in international tourneys. A double round robin in a 12-team league results into 264 regular season games which they can finish over the course of 29 weeks (or about 7 months). Add the playoffs and you’re looking at an 8 or 9 (at most) month season schedule. The remaining 3 months can be reserved for training.

But I can settle for two conferences — one’s an All-Filipino conference while the other is import-laden. Single Round Robin + playoffs. It would still be about the same timeline as the one above (with a few more games added due to the added playoff games).


I know, I know. This isn’t controlled by the PBA but rather by the TV5 crew. Do they (i.e. TV5) have incentives to maybe, possibly, hopefully move the time slot? The 2nd PBA weekday game, usually scheduled around the 7PM slot actually gets a good rating. This might mean a lot of things but I’m inclined to believe it’s because people want to watch it, but they can’t because #traffic/#EdsaKaBa.

Date Time Game Rating


4:15 PM MER vs ROS 2.8%


7:00 PM ALA vs GBP 7.2%


4:15 PM BWE vs SMB 3%


7:00 PM NLX vs ROS 7.8%


4:15 PM BAR vs TNT 3.2%


7:00 PM KIA vs GIN 8.8%


5:00 PM PUR vs ROS 5.7%


3:00 PM GBP vs MER 4.2%


5:15 PM GIN vs TNT 9.2%

If everyone can catch the games live (maybe with a later time schedule), wouldn’t it be better for the PBA to re-negotiate the deals of their contract to have a better time slot? Or maybe make their videos available on, you know, the PBA website? Or at the very least, make the PBA videos on TV5 easier to find? Right now, it takes about a gazillion clicks just to find the game you want (exaggeration, of course).

That would help them generate more interest (maybe?), get a more loyal following (maybe?) and a more cohesive season (maybe?).

Sports legacies are usually defined by the missed opportunities more than anything (outside of the act of winning itself). Mistakes can be forgotten but regrets and missed opportunities never leave the legacies they are tied to. It’s that moment in time when you stop and say – Yun na yun eh.

This moment, right here, for the PBA is one of those moments. This planned re-structuring won’t break the league. Filipinos love their basketball too much. But it can make the PBA into something more, something bigger than it has ever been before. Whether they get this moment right depends on what “re-structuring” really means for them. If it’s only a nominal re-structuring, it won’t change the overall outlook of the league. But if they hold true to what the reports imply, then this will be a crucial turning point for the league.