10 PLAYERS THAT SHOULD HAVE PLAYED IN A PBA ALL-STAR GAME




This is not a late 2019 PBA All-Star Weekend article.

In fact, this is an EARLY 2020 PBA All-Star Weekend blog!

So I thought about it and instead of writing about the players that didn’t deserve an All-Star nod, I will write about the players that should have had an All-Star appearance.

And sure, these names have seen action in the side events BUT… the All-Star main event is designed to recognize the top players of that point of the season. This is why I hate how they conduct the voting. If expansion drafts have a “protect eight” rule, then these games must also have some kind of regulation. To say a player is an All-Star but said player barely gets 15 minutes of play is just absurd.


EXCLUDED FROM THE LIST

I will not include former PBA MVP Ricky Brown on this list because of the All-Star Games were pretty much non-existent during his tenure. Ditto for 1-time Mythical First Teamer and Fil-Am OG Willie Pearson! Bruisers like Ricky Relosa, Padim Israel and Joy Carpio were at the tail end of their careers when the All-Stars became an annual spectacle so they are also taken off the list.

Rene Canent is also excluded because even if there were incarnations of All-Star events during his time, they were not official All-Star events.

I will also exclude the active players. I know it’s dumb that we have yet to see the likes of Sean Anthony and Cliff Hodge in the official event and players like Willy Wilson, Jervy Cruz, Ryan Arana, and Chris Tiu at one point of their careers deserved to be part of the main dance… but they can still do it (although I was really tempted to insert Yancy de Ocampo who at this stage of his career, is bound to miss out on the event).   

So I guess I’m going to have two honorable mentions?




HONORABLE MENTIONS

YANCY DE OCAMPO

1-time PBA Mythical Second Team (2008)
10-time PBA Champion
Playing Status: Active

There was a time when The Postman is seen as the future of Philippine basketball. In fact, he had a Mythical Second Team citation as part of the Talk N Text Phone Pals. Hell, remember when a USBL team tried to sign him? Back when June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter are no-namers, this former St. Francis Stag is the most sought after big man. Unfortunately for Yancy De Ocampo, he was seen more as trade bait than a franchise player. His fall from grace started when Air21 and Talk N Text ping-ponged for his services. By the time he crossed to the SMC ranks, he was seen as a second stringer. Now in his late 30s and playing behind the likes of Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger, I doubt if YDO can still get an All-Star invite.


TERRY SALDANA

PBA Most Improved Player (1983)
5-time PBA Champion
8.3ppg | 5.9rpg | 17 seasons
Achievement Awards: 5,000 Points, 2,000 Defensive Rebounds, 1,000 Offensive Rebounds 

Terry Saldana almost suffered a career-ending injury in 1988. He successfully returned to active duty but he was never the same player. With that said, The Plastic Man still had a lot in him that could have given him an All-Star nod. Unfortunately for this former Toyota Super Corolla, the All-Star games during his prime were nonexistent and the games past his prime had the RSJ versus Veterans format. In some ways, this is why I placed Saldana in this spot – because his 80s game is far different from his 90s role. Plastic Man went on to play an epic exhibition game in which he was named MVP of the Crispa versus Toyota Reunion Game (Saldana started his PBA career with the Super Corollas).


10 | JOLLY ESCOBAR

2-time PBA Champion
5.0ppg | 4.2rpg | 11 seasons

If you are a bonafide Shell fan, I bet you know the team’s other bald-headed big man. Picked ahead of Bong Ravena, Kevin Ramas, and Bonel Balingit and picked behind Vergel Meneses and Bong Solomon, the third overall pick of the 1992 PBA Draft had a lengthy stint with the squad as their other imposing force in the middle. When Benjie Paras got injured, Jolly E manned Shell’s frontline. With that said, Escobar also spent time in the sidelines and I guess this is a reason why he never got to play in the event. During his prime, a bunch of bruisers like Sonny Cabatu, Wilmer Ong, Cris Bolado, and Jack Tanuan had All-Star stints. If they managed to squeeze on this list, then Jolly Escobar should have scored an entry. 


9 | LEO ISAAC

4-time PBA Champion
6.9PPG | 9 seasons

If Robert Jaworski is seen by many as our version of Magic Johnson, then Leo Isaac is our version of Byron Scott. From the get-go, it felt as if Isaac is placed in the Ginebra starting lineup to make life easier for The Living Legend. Isaac did what was needed to get the job done and barely strayed off the plays. Isaac could have been an All-Star but just his luck, Jawo, Chito Loyzaga, Dante Gonzalgo, Joey Loyzaga, and Dondon Ampalayo were the once getting the invites. Also, the Ginebra championship machine was slowly going offline when the all-star game became a yearly happening. A popular player in his own right, Isaac should have had that recognition. And really, who can ever forget his armpit-smelling free throw?


8 | ART DELA CRUZ

3-time PBA All-Defensive First Team
7-time PBA Champion
5.3PPG | 10 seasons

It was a chore to push this former San Sebastian Stag out of his comfort zone. And while most of his shots were scored inside the shaded area, Art Dela Cruz specializes in destroying dreams… especially if your dream is to beat him on the boards. I remember a Finals series where Art Dela Cruz and Poch Juinio would score fighting foul after fighting foul. This tough customer helped the San Miguel Beermen to seven championships. I know defensive specialists take a backseat to scorers and pretty boys but I guess there was a point in the 90s that made sense to place Art in the All-Star game.


7 | NANING VALENCIANO

1-time PBA Champion
8.4ppg | 11 seasons

If a 90s team was in need of a budget version of Allan Caidic and to their dismay, Al Solis and Elmer Cabahug were unavailable, then Naning Valenciano is the next best thing. And no, I am not dissing the southern sharpshooter. I mean, Naning Valenciano is one of the most dangerous snipers of his time and at one point spearheaded the Pepsi Hotshots’ attack (I once rooted for Pepsi/7-Up at one point). Sure, Valenciano had his best years playing for down and out squads but through the years, we had the likes of John Ferriols, Reynel Hugnatan, and Peter June Simon gain All-Star spots. This is why if the North versus South All-Star format was available in the 90s, Valenciano could have made the All-Star roster.


6 | ROBERT WAINWRIGHT

1-time PBA Champion
8.4ppg | 4.1rpg | 11 seasons

The former Cebu Gem burst into the spotlight as part of the Sta. Lucia Realtors. In some ways, his entry, along with a few others in 2000, jumpstarted what was the end of the MBA. I thought Wainwright’s gameplay is ahead of his time, given that he has the height of a power forward and the range of a shooting guard. In eleven seasons, Wainwright averaged in double digits once… and recorded a less than 5-point season also only just once. So what’s with the fat All-Star egg? I guess he’s not a fan favorite because, given his stats, there are a lot of so-so averages that appeared in the game. I also thought injuries and his journeyman status played a major role as to why he never saw action in the All-Star main event. 


5 | NELBERT OMOLON

1-time PBA Mythical Second Team (2008)
4-time PBA Champion
7.7ppg | 4.4rpg | 13 seasons

An integral part of the Sta. Lucia Realtors’ second championship, the former PCU Dolphin and Welcoat Paint Master was selected eighth overall in the 2004 PBA Draft. Omolon was picked behind Rich Alvarez, James Yap, Ranidel de Ocampo, Sonny Thoss, and Marc Pingris and was picked ahead of Gary David, Paul Artadi, and Willy Wilson. With the exception of Wilson, these players have appeared in the main match of the All-Star festivities. He spent most of his career in Sta. Lucia and his combo forward game made him their new and much-improved version of Noynoy Falcasantos. It’s also important to note that Omolon made the Mythical Second Team of the 2007-08 PBA season. Sure, he’s a two-time PBA Blitz Game MVP but it’s pretty much a side event to the main event. 


4 | JONAS VILLANUEVA

PBA Most Improved Player (2009)
1-time PBA Finals MVP (2009 Fiesta Conference)
2-time PBA Champion
6.3ppg | 2.7rpg | 3.1apg | 11 seasons

What do Jonas Villanueva, LA Tenorio, Alex Cabagnot, Bonbon Custodio, and Mike Cortez have in common? Well once upon a time these players were groomed to become Olsen Racela’s heir apparent in San Miguel. In fact, there was a time when that notice became real for this former FEU Tamaraw. J-Vil helped the Beermen win the 2009 Fiesta Cup in which he was adjudged as the Finals MVP. While Villanueva is the only player to win the PBA Obstacle Challenge four consecutive times (from 2010 to 2013), I think a lot of people would agree that should have at least one PBA All-Star Game appearance.

Now why is Villanueva on this part of the list? I know has been inactive for nearly two conferences now as of this writing but… I think he can still pull a comeback despite being in his mid-30s.


3 | PAOLO MENDOZA

1-time PBA Sportsmanship Award
2-time PBA Champion
7.5ppg | 2.0rpg | 2.2apg

Paolo Mendoza joined Dennis Espino and Marlou Aquino as the only Realtors to see action in both of their championships. Is this is a good record? Well… yes, it is. You know what’s a bad Paolo Mendoza trivia? He is one of four PBA first overall picks to never play in the All-Star main event. While Fil-German sensation Christian Standhardinger is a more superior talent, I believe he had a better career than ex-Ateneo behemoths Alex Araneta and Noy Baclao. I thought he had the tools to excel in the PBA if only he had the height or the playmaking skills to battle his contemporaries. But it’s not like his numbers are that bad for him to miss out on an All-Star appearance.


2 | FREDDIE ABUDA

2-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year (1997, 2000)
4-time PBA All-Defensive First Team
8-time PBA Champion
4.4ppg | 4.7rpg | 12 seasons

The 1993 PBA Draft saw the likes of Jun Limpot, Victor Pablo, Johnny Abarrientos, and Olsen Racela finally getting the pro treatment. The same goes for this forward from Eastern Samar… although nobody saw his PBA stint as the stuff of legends. That all changed when Freddie Abuda got mentored by Ron Jacobs and from lanky no-namer, The Scavenger became a household name. I guess with the likes of Racela, Danny Ildefonso, and Danny Seigle running San Miguel, it’s easy to discount Abuda as All-Star material. But then even fellow Ron Jacobs guy Mike Mustre got an All-Star nod. Abuda is a fan favorite and he deserved an All-Star spot. Hell I may be talking nonsense here but he’s easily the “Draymond” of that San Miguel team.


1 | WYNNE ARBOLEDA

1-time PBA Mythical Second Team
2-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year
4-time PBA All-Defensive First Team
Achievement Awards: 500 Steals
7.0ppg | 3.4rpg | 3.4apg | 1.4spg | 15 seasons

Wynne Arboleda is the undisputed face of the Air21 franchise. Not only is he the longest tenured… The Snatcher actually married into the squad. He is basically the Triple H of Air21-land. But while we pity/revel on the fact that Gary David played his last PBA game without a championship, Arboleda also failed to win a title… and was never a part of the All-Star big dance. For almost a decade, Arboleda made beautiful music with the likes of David, Renren Ritualo, Arwind Santos, KG Canaleta, and Ranidel de Ocampo – leading to these players’ entry to the event – but for some insane reason, he was never given a chance to represent the Express. I thought he was bound to see action in the All-Star during the late 2000s… but boy did he mess things up when he rocked and socked that fan that sparked his temporary league absence.




Did you agree with this list?

Did I miss someone out or did I wrongfully insert a player?

Get Sydrified.


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