ALLOW this battle-scarred dinosaur to turn back the hands of time in the world of local basketball.
Long before the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) opened shop in 1975, there was the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA), the premier post-graduate commercial league in the country.
Formed in 1938, the MICAA was organized by major companies dealing in sporting goods, apparel and equipment and consumer products.
Among the original and long-time members were H.E. Heacock Incorporated, San Miguel Brewery, Philippine Air Lines, Elizalde and Company (represented by the Yco Redshirts/Painters owned by top sportsman Don Manolo Elizalde), Manila Yellow Taxicab Company (owned by businessman Felipe Monserrat, who later became the president of the much-respected Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, the forerunner of the Philippine Olympic Committee), Seven-Up Bottling Company, Ysmael Steel (represented by the YS Admirals owned by prominent industrialist Felipe “Baby” Ysmael), Chelsea, Yutivo Sons Hardware Company, Crispa-Floro, Universal Textiles, Puyat Steel and Great Pacific Life Assurance Company.
Six clubs owned the distinction of snaring the MICAA title in their inaugural year in the league.
Heacock’s accomplished the feat in 1938, Maurice Enterprises in 1946, Olympic Sporting Goods in 1947, Seven-Up in 1955, Mariwasa (owned by founding PBA president Emerson Coseteng, father of future Senator Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng) in 1968 and Toyota (owned by Don Pablo Carlos) in 1973.
The 1973 season was rocked by a report of the then-Philippine Constabulary (PC) Metrocom and a Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) special committee that accused six players from Crispa of involvement in game-fixing and point-shaving activities during the All-Filipino tournament.
Notwithstanding the unsavory incident that dominated the sports pages for months, the MICAA continued to enjoy great success for a year or two until a contentious disagreement with then-BAP president Gonzalo “Lito” Puyat led to the defection of the top clubs from the MICAA in March 1975 to form Asia’s first professional cage league, the PBA.
The MICAA actually continued to exist for some time, although as a “farm” league, until its demise in 1981 following the Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL).
Before the open declaration of the PBA as a professional league, the word “professional” did not exist in the local basketball vocabulary even if the players from the MICAA at the time were already receiving monetary compensation (termed as allowances) for their playing skills in the guise of work-related services to their mother companies.
For example, one Meralco player drew his salary as a branch executive or an assistant manager of the utility company when, in actuality, the numbers on his paychecks were directly as a result of his playing ball.
Why the charade in the player’s (or employee’s) status at the time?
It was done to keep a player’s amateur status intact, thus assuring his eligibility to see action in international events sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) such as the Asian Basketball Confederation (now called FIBA Asia Championship), Asian Games, World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup) and Summer Olympics.
By 1990, the masquerade came to a halt as the FIBA introduced the “open basketball’ policy that provided no distinction between amateurs and professionals.
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