I’ll confess to getting a bit choked up when watching the closing seconds of any March Madness game. CBS always pans across the defeated team’s bench, revealing a bunch of dejected seniors whose careers have suddenly evaporated. Most will move on to high-level rec leagues, and to boring their children with exaggerated tales of their hardwood exploits.
Yet a few lucky souls will earn a living playing the sport they love. To make that happen, some will bid farewell to the U.S. and journey to The Philippines, home to the second-oldest professional league on the planet. That’s what former Coppin State standout Dorian Pena did after college. Now he’s the go-to big man for the San Miguel Beermen, arguably the most splendidly nicknamed team in pro sports history (right behind the Nippon Ham Fighters). The Beermen are also the best team in the league right now, largely thanks to devastating accuracy from beyond the three-point arc.
Despite the Philippine Basketball Association’s lengthy history, the league doesn’t attract much top-flight American talent. The best-known foreign “import” at present is probably Jai Lewis, a star on that George Mason team that made an improbably Final Four run back in 2007. He currently plays for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
There’s only one PBA team without any Americans: The Pure Food Tender Juicy Giants. Um, on second thought, perhaps that’s the best team nickname ever.
My hunch is that the PBA gets bought out by the NBA in the next 15 years, and becomes a conference within NBA Asia. You just know David Stern licks his chops when he reads stories like this.