Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Talk ‘N Text and the PBA’s greatest dynasties

source: Jay P. Mercado | InterAKTV

The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters recent conquest over the Powerade Tigers in the Philippine Cup is the franchise’s third title in four straight finals appearances. They fell one game short of the Grand Slam last season, losing to the Petron Blaze Boosters in the Governors’ Cup. With this record, Talk ‘N Text is slowly building a dynasty.

What makes their accomplishment impressive is that no team has been this dominant since the start of the century. The last team to go to the finals five consecutive times was the San Miguel Beermen, who were in the championship from 2000 Commissioner’s Cup to the 2001 Governors’ Cup. Members of this powerhouse Beermen team include two-time Most Valuable Player Danny Ildefonso, 1999 Rookie of the Year Danny Seigle, Olsen Racela, and Nic Belasco.

But even those Beermen had some ways to go before matching the mark of the PBA’s greatest dynasties. The record for the most consecutive finals appearances by a team stands at eight, and three franchises share the mark.

The first team to accomplish this feat was Crispa. The legendary Redmanizers achieved this from the get-go, placing second in the first two conferences of the 1975 season behind the Toyota Comets, before exacting vengeance in the third conference and preventing a Grand Slam by their archrivals.

Crispa went on to win the Grand Slam in the 1976 season, and won the first 2 conferences of the 1977 season. The Redmanizers wound up 3rd overall in the 1977 season when guest team Emtex Sacronels, composed of Brazilian stars led by Oscar Schmidt — considered one of the greatest players never to play in the NBA — faced the Toyota Tamaraws in the finals.

(Toyota, led by the talented import pair of Bruce “Sky” King and John “Dr. I” Irving, swept Emtex in the finals.)

Some of the notable Crispa players who were part of this eight-conference finals run include Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde and Bernie Fabiosa.

Toyota was able to match Crispa’s feat of eight straight finals appearances, beginning in the 1978 Invitationals, that year’s third conference, wherein the Tamaraws collared the title at the expense of the Tanduay Esquires. Toyota made it to the finals of all six conferences from 1979 to 1980 plus the first conference of 1981, winning two titles over that span. Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez, Francis Arnaiz, Abe King, Emerito Legaspi, Pablo Javier, and Jess Sta. Maria. Former Crispa amateur hotshot Danny Florencio was also part of some of these teams, but he took a leave of absence during the entire 1979 season.

The last team to play in the finals eight consecutive times was Alaska. The Milkmen crashed the 1994 Commissioner’s Cup finals, but lost to Purefoods Oodles in the championship. Undeterred, Alaska went on to win that season’s Governors’ Cup, defeating Swift Mighty Meaty Hotdogs with the help of resident import Sean Chambers.

Alaska went on to play in all three championships in the 1995 season, losing twice to Swift before defending the Governors’ Cup. They copped the elusive Grand Slam in 1996. Key players during this run include Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, Bong Hawkins, and Poch Juinio, with Jeffrey Cariaso joining the ride in 1995.

Talk ‘N Text is only halfway through matching the record of these fabled teams, but if any squad can do it, then it’s these Tropang Texters. They’ve been extremely dominant in the last four conferences, and except for a few hiccups against arch-rival Petron, their star-laden lineup has served them well. The common thread among these teams is that they were able to preserve the nucleus of the lineups without making any major changes — something that coach Chot Reyes has done as well.

Can Ali Peek, Kelly Williams, Ranidel De Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Jimmy Alapag, Jason Castro, Ryan Reyes, Jared Dillinger, Harvey Carey and Gilbert Lao continue to help Talk ‘N Text join the pantheon of these great teams? We don’t know, but it would be fun to see them try.

Jay P. Mercado is a highly-regarded PBA amateur historian. He serves as a consultant the the PBA Greatest Games broadcast on Pinoy X-treme.