Japan B League: What It Means To Philippine Basketball

More and more young players have signed contracts with Japan’s B League, heralding a growing trend for Pinoy players to try their luck in the Land of the Rising Sun. Starting off with Ateneo standout Thirdy Ravena, the newest addition to the Japan exodus of bright Gen Z talents are Gilas regulars Kobe Paras and Dwight Ramos. This Japan opening portends well for our young dribblers, but will it eventually be good for Philippine Basketball?

The PBA feels threatened by the possibility of losing its present and future stars to Japan. As of late, Thirdy Ravena (signed with San-en) has been joined by: his brother Kiefer Ravena (Shiga, although he still has contractual obligations with his PBA team), Juan Gomez De Liano (Tokyo Z), Javi Gomez De Liano (Ibaraki), Kemark Carino (Aomori), Kobe Paras (Utsunomiya Brex), Bobby Ray Parks (Nagoya) and Dwight Ramos (Toyama). Even popular PBA stars such as Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva have been reportedly approached with enticing offers from Japan. The PBA’s concern: if these future and present stars are lost to a foreign league, what would be the future of the PBA? What is to stop young and promising players – who used to dream of playing in the PBA – from joining this growing bandwagon? Will the PBA still be competitive, or will it grow old and fade away? (Pls read: Quo Vadis, PBA?)

Japan’s B League is Japan’s professional basketball league. It has 47 teams classified under 3 Divisions, with Div 1 considered the highest level. Its import rules state that each of the 36 teams in Divs 1 and 2 can have up to 3 foreign players.

But while the import rules opens up possibilities for the 36 teams in Divs 1 and 2, it doesn’t necessarily follow that these are available for Philippine players only. It simply means that a total of 36 teams times 3 slots per team are available for imports from all over the globe. Pinoy dribblers will compete for those slots.

For our young players, there are many upsides to a possible stint in Japan. Aside from the obvious monetary benefit (which the PBA cannot match), there is the experience to be had in playing against foreign players, in learning new coaching styles and methodologies, in the new training and fitness regimen, and in the experience and the learning that goes with traveling and working abroad. All these are tempting propositions that bode well for our players.

As for the PBA’s concern over losing out on the young players, this should not be seen as a problem, as the exit of these players will actually provide more opportunities for other players to shine. I truly believe that there is no one who has a monopoly of talent. I believe in the saying that as one door closes, another one opens up. As some players exit, other players will shine once given the opportunity.

This dilemma is similar to the ‘brain drain’ issue that hounded us decades ago. Back in the 60s, many were fearful that the exodus of skilled technicians, scientists, engineers, nurses and the like would not augur well for the country. Social pundits were quick to judge that the work force would suffer with the exit of these brilliant minds. Years later, we found out that we had enough manpower to address their absence. We also benefitted through the contributions of the same people – technologically, monetarily or otherwise – as they ‘paid forward’ and provided immense help to the country.

The PBA will be better served if it embraces the opportunities to work on the globalization of the game. Even as many of our best players are exported, we will not lose out on talents, and instead have the opportunity to develop more of the same. And as these Pinoy ‘exports’ learn more of the international game, they will come back wiser and better equipped to elevate our level of play.

It is time for the PBA and Philippine Basketball to embrace a progressive outlook on the sport’s global development. The way for it to move forward is to be dynamic, creative and not take a protectionist stance. The Japanese B League provides us a healthy opportunity to further hone the skills of our players. We should ride on to this new trend, and create our own innovations to generate more interest among local fans.

The global game has been growing rapidly during the past decades, especially with the technology developments. Until the pandemic stymied its exponential growth. What the PBA needs to do now is to be mindful of the trends toward technology, and be relevant with the times. What it cannot afford to do is to curtail the players’ individual growth. Once it starts to have that open attitude, it will reap the seeds of good karma, and the league will be back on the road to prosperity.

Cover Photo courtesy of: Tiebreaker Times. Other pics courtesy of Rappler.com, Tiebreakertimes.com.ph, PhilStar and Daily Tribune.

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