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Continuing family legacy in the PBA

THE late commissioner Rodrigo Salud set a high standard of leadership in the Philippine Basketball Association during his tenure as head of Asia’s first professional basketball league from 1988 to 1991.

It was during his watch where the league instituted the PBA All-Star Game which culminated in the classic ending featuring former teammates turned rivals Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez, who connived in that final play to put a thrilling finish in the Veterans’ climatic win over the Rookies and the Sophomores in the 1989 All-Star Game.

Salud was also the one who approved the lending of professional players to form the Philippine squad to the 1990 Asian Games led by Jaworski as playing coach, Fernandez as team captain and bannered by young players Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Benjie Paras, Alvin Patrimonio, Ronnie Magsanoc, Hector Calma and Chito Loyzaga among others.            

He also saved a once dying league as participating teams hiked from six to eight with Pepsi Cola and RFM Corporation coming in as expansion ball clubs, giving balance and sustainability to the league loved and embraced by millions of Filipinos.

Giving balance to the league was one of Salud’s objectives that he even had to scatter the league’s premier big men at that time – Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Manny Victorino, Yoyo Villamin and Abe King, prohibiting any two of them from playing together in one team to maintain parity.

These were some of the significant accomplishments of the late commissioner.

But just like his old man, the young Salud—Chito Salud—will leave a great mark in the pro league for his wonderful contributions.

A record number of participating teams, 12, happened this season with the entry of expansion clubs Kia and Blackwater and the acquisition of Air 21 by NLEX of the MVP Group of Companies.

A strong 52,612 watched the games live on opening day of the 40th season at the Philippine Arena and the feat has never been seen in the history of the pro league.

There were concerns when boxing icon Manny Pacquiao applied for the PBA Rookie Draft and was selected to become playing coach of Kia. Whether it’s comical for many or good for the image of the league marketing wise. Such moment was a first in league history.

A new league was also created in the midst of his tenure as commissioner—the PBA D-League, a breeding ground of talent and an in-between league that can be used by collegiate players preparing for their entry to the next level.

When the young Salud announced he’s going to retire at the end of the season,  the PBA community was saddened but was also given reassurance that the league will be left in good hands.

Marketing wise, many believed Chito did a great job selling the product that is the PBA. Fans were back to watch the games. Different media were added to make the league more accessible to every kind of audience they had and games were brought closer to different parts of the country.

The PBA under Salud’s watch, has truly gone a long way and this will certainly make his old man proud. The family’s legacy in the PBA will be kept and will forever be part of history.

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