The news about the top-level leadership of the Philippine Basketball Association going to Japan for a “dialogue” with officials of the Japan B. League over player recruitment issues leaves a bad taste in the mouth on so many levels.

First, did the PBA officials forget that we live in a free world, a free country and exercise free trade and enterprise? 

Second, these players are of legal age and are free to engage their business freely. It is within their right to choose wherever they will ply their trade to provide the best for their families’ needs.

The PBA top honchos are crying foul about the supposed “poaching” of collegiate talents. Do they even know the real meaning of poaching?

Poaching as defined by Merriam and Webster (as a transitive verb) is to take (something) by illegal methods. Did the Japan B. League employ illegal means to recruit our local talents? Are these talents owned by the PBA in the first place for them to cry foul?

Let’s apply this situation to one’s choice of hamburgers. Burger Chain A, let’s say, is the leading chain in the market. But customers are now leaning toward the hamburger of Burger Chain B because it offered something new that caught the taste of the market.

In disgust, the owners of Burger Chain A set up a dialogue with the owners of Burger Chain B because their business model has been affected by the latter’s innovation. In Tagalog, they may say, “Huwag ninyo namang galingan, nalulugi na kami. Easyhan niyo lang ah.” 

But that’s not how the world operates in free trade, where the best business model with the best practices and best product wins. 

This phenomenon of our young players going overseas to ply their trade is complementary rather than detrimental to Philippine basketball. The leaders of the Philippine Basketball Association are just blind or just playing blind to this fact. This is the trend now even in the United States and Europe. An American player who did not find his luck in the National Basketball Association may blossom in the Euroleague or in China and if he’s lucky, that may be his route to his NBA dream. 

Our local professional league’s officials are too insular and sometimes bordering on being selfish by preventing Filipino talents from going overseas.

These players can acquire basketball expertise, skills, or practices from Japan, Korea, Australia or wherever they may decide to play, and that can help our national team.

Let’s set it straight. We are not the best in Asia in terms of basketball, which is why our players also need to acquire the latest practices from our neighbors.

For the Philippine Basketball Association, YOU are still THE League of Choice for young basketball players in the Philippines. Instead of meddling with the business of other people in other countries, you may look inward first to improve the operation of the league. 

Implement a one corporation – one team policy. Avoid having “sister” teams. It does not help the league in terms of upholding integrity. Enforce the salary cap strictly. If you need to increase it to be able to match the offers of foreign leagues to our talents, do so. Make every perk above board. Once and for all, address the concern of the so-called “farm teams” of huge conglomerates. We fans are not stupid not to be able to read between the lines in terms of transactions that are happening. 

Employ more creative means in terms of your tournaments. First you can employ a division system in which a promotion and relegation system is in play. Division A is the PBA itself and Division B is the D-League. Relegate the last two finishers of Division A to Division B after each conference and promote the top two teams of Division B to Division A. Open the league to more teams. 

For the import-laced conference, allow handicapping for the last two placer teams with Asian imports under 6’6”. There are still more creative suggestions from the fans apart from these. The PBA just needs to open its heart and ears to them. 

When the time comes that the league has provided the best system for the players, then they will have second thoughts in leaving the league to play elsewhere. 

At this point, the option to leave is very tempting because what they have inside their backyard is not the best. And we live in a free world. The best provider of the food on the table at the end of day will always be the best option.