It goes without saying that the Alaska Aces’ announcement of their exit from the PBA after 36 years dealt a huge blow to the Philippine basketball community.
Sure, Barangay Ginebra is the most popular team in the PBA, and the San Miguel Beermen are the league’s winningest franchise, but the Aces are arguably the PBA’s model franchise.
Most of the PBA teams have had their fair shares of controversy, but Alaska has largely stayed out of trouble and has held a sterling reputation of playing by the rules across more than three decades in the league. They have been vocal with regard to the issues surrounding the league and have pushed for fairness in a league that has had a reputation for favoring certain quarters. Beyond the good conduct, the Aces’ 14 championships puts them right behind the Beermen and the winning tradition that comes with it remains unparalleled in a league where franchises change their names faster than the Philippines changes presidents.
Sad as this development may be, there remains basketball to be played and Alaska has so far shown that emotions can be set aside and be used as motivation as they look to end their PBA stint on a high note.
Since announcing their exit, the Aces have pulled off two straight wins, with their most recent victory being a come-from-behind win over the Terrafirma Dyip. Down 83-66, entering the fourth quarter, Jeron Teng arguably had the best game in his PBA career as he spurred a rally and hit the big shots down the stretch to lead Alaska to a 102-97 win. The former DLSU Green Archer finished with a career-high 30 points, showing a confidence that further points to his growing game.
Current circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the preference of controlling entity FrieslandCampina to go in a different direction have been among the major factors that led to the Aces bidding the PBA goodbye. It would be thus a shame if no one will pick up the roster as a whole due to current and historical reasons. Alaska remains competitive in its current form and the team is currently in third place in the conference standings at 5-2 thanks to their current three-game winning streak.
Apart from Teng, the Aces have a solid big man in Abu Tratter and perimeter players in Maverick Ahanmisi and Robbie Herndon. A championship would not only provide the perfect storybook ending to a stellar PBA stint, but it would also make keeping Alaska intact all the more enticing.
Buyers are purported to be interested in acquiring the franchise, but should the team be unable to close a deal before the next season starts, the players would have to go through a dispersal draft that will likely serve to beef up the stronger teams in the long run. All the work of the past conferences will then be for naught.
Breaking up the Aces would also be a shame especially as they are one out of five PBA teams who have won at least one championship over the last decade. Alaska also made the finals six times over that same span of time and joined the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as the only teams to have achieved championship success despite not being affiliated with either the San Miguel Corporation group or Manny V. Pangilinan’s corporate teams. Going further back, the Aces are also one of only five teams in PBA history to have completed a grand slam (i.e., won all the PBA conference in a single season) back in 1996.
The announcement of Alaska Aces’ exit from the PBA tugged on the hearts of fans, opponents, and peers alike. Their future remains uncertain for the time being, but like the greats in the twilight of their careers, now is the time to appreciate them while they are still on the court. Painful as it may be to see them go, they won’t let up in their final conference in an ode to their “We not Me” motto.