Palawan, 2018 has its shares of highs (and a low point) in the sporting world. I may not be able to itemize everything in this column but a handful of what yours truly feels are worth the spotlight are listed below…
The King moves to LA: at the early hours of the National Basketball Association (NBA) free agency of 2018, Lebron James leaves his hometown of Cleveland yet again this time to take his talents to Hollywood. Signing a 4-year maximum deal despite the age of 33, James brought promise back to the Lakers’ playoff aspirations. Surrounded by upcoming stars led by Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma, The King didn’t even bother thinking about how much more the Cavaliers can give by re-signing with them. He feels destiny beckons by joining the Lakers show. James’ move to the Western Conference signaled a dynamic shift with the West getting stronger and the East…. well, being contested by just two powerhouses: The Celtics and The Bucks. Are there any more superstars willing to join James’ band at the Staples Center? It’s a wait and sees event folks. I am sure LBJ and Magic Johnson would have more aces up their sleeves in 2019.
GGG vs Canelo II … the rematch of the world’s top middleweight boxers ended yet again with a “controversial” decision in favor of Canelo Álvarez. Both fighters fought toe to toe trading jabs and power punches with spectators observing that Gellany Golovkin should have won the bout which was a sequel to their equally controversial draw on their first fight in September 2017. Since both fights would have gone either way, pundits are expecting a third fight to settle once and for all who the best middleweight fighter is on the planet. Watch out for this potential blockbuster, Palawan!
Philippine Collegiate Dynasties … the San Beda Red Lions and the Ateneo Blue Eagles drove their way to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball crowns respectively this year. A lot of basketball aficionados like me are predicting that the Red Lion and Blue Eagle onslaught won’t stop this year what with few graduating players and a solid recruitment program solidified by the coffers of the Gilas guy himself, Manny Pangilinan. It’s up to the rest of the collegiate world to break the trend and we are looking forward to bigger and brighter collegiate wars in 2019.
The UP Maroons: for decades considered as the whipping boys in the Philippine college basketball ranks, the University of the Philippines (UP), injected with experienced coaches, blue-chip recruits and the backing of the entire UP System of students and alumni, the UP Fighting Maroons made it to the finals in this year’s UAAP season. We are expecting a UAAP finals rematch next year with a couple more blue-chip players surnamed Paras and Rivero entering the fold in 2019.
The Low Point … Basketbrawl at the FIBA Qualifiers
I guess this incident is tops among low points in Philippine Sports … the Basketbrawl event between Team Pilipinas (formerly Gilas Pilipinas) and the Boomers of Australia which resulted to multiple player (and coach) suspensions along with FIBA sanctions to both countries. I would consider Team Pilipinas lucky for getting away with just suspensions as against losing the right to play in any internationally sanctioned tournament. I do wish cooler heads will prevail in our hard courts next time.
The New Year
Of course, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is currently in its pre season building mode for 2019. Re-tooled by the 2018 PBA Draft, we expect the infusion of fresh young blood to bring new excitement to the league next year. Yours truly believes the Blackwater Elite, what with Paul Desiderio, Abu Tratter and, if he stays, Bobby Ray Parks In the fold to back up mainstays Mac Belo, Raymar Jose, Roi Sumang, and gunner Alain Maliksi all primed to rumble. Very young and athletic, I expect The Elite to be darkhorses next year.
Palawan, as we put 2018 behind us, I wish everyone a prosperous new year filled with joy and blessings. Stay healthy and get your kids into sports. Believe me, it builds character, teamwork, trust and perseverance which they can apply in life when they grow up. Work hard, play hard!
(The writer is a senior leader of the only Business Process Outsourcing Contact Center company in Puerto Princesa. He also is the current Puerto Princesa Underground River Festival Foundation President)
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