For the past three years, the San Miguel Beermen have been kings of the PBA Philippine Cup. Their reign has been nothing short of dominant, including a historic comeback in 2016 when they still won it all, despite being down 0-3. After winning their recent title two weeks ago, beating Barangay Ginebra in a decisive 4-1 series victory, they have cemented their standing as one of the greatest teams of all time.
The only team comparable to the Beermen, just by counting the PH Cup trophies, are the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters. Jimmy Alapag was at the peak of his powers then and he would own the league for three years in the early 2010’s.
And since we’re hoop junkies who always compare and pit other great teams against each other, we have to know which three-peat team was better, right?
Before we start to break things down, here’s a recap of those championship teams:
Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters: Philippine Cup Champions from 2010-2013, beating SMB, Powerade, and Rain or Shine.
San Miguel Beermen: Philippine Cup Champions from 2014-2017, beating Alaska (twice) and Barangay Ginebra.
So, who wins in an all-out dream scenario between these two powerhouses?
Let’s set a few ground rules first:
- This is a best-of-seven series. This leaves room for adjustments, matchup changes, and whatnot. Having just one game wouldn’t justify one team’s greatness over the other. And besides, it’s way more fun to think that we could potentially have all seven epic games.
- But even though this is going for a game seven, we won’t count injuries. What’s the point of having a hypothetical matchup if we’re have to factor in guys who keep getting hurt? Nah, we’re going into this with players having a clean bill of health.
- We only get the best eight guys from each team. Even though we’re looking at three different rosters from each team, 2010-2013 for TNT and 2014-2017 for SMB, we can essentially get the combined core from each of them. So for example, we won’t include Japeth Aguilar in the mix even though he played for TNT back in 2010 because he wasn’t part of the core of the three-peat anyway.
- The rosters. Now, the tricky part of course is selecting those eight dudes. Everyone has their own biases and their own opinions while trying to decide who’s better. That’s fine. And you know what, you can pick your own eight if you want, but I’m picking the eight guys whom I feel can bring the best basketball possible.
Talk ‘N Text:
Coach: Chot Reyes
Ranidel De Ocampo
Coach: Leo Austria
June Mar Fajardo
- Everyone is in their prime. Another tricky but super duper fun rule. I know that when TNT made their three-peat, Jayson Castro was not in his prime, but he was still an integral part of that team. In the same way, Arwind Santos was already at the tail-end of his dominance as Fajardo’s game ascended. But again, where’s the fun if we don’t pit prime Castro against prime Chris Ross? What about Jimmy Alapag’s uber clutch gene in full gear versus Alex Cabagnot’s crunch time magic? And then you have a 100 percent healthy Kelly Williams and Ali Peek’s gigantic muscles taking on SMB’s dreaded frontcourt. Who says that doesn’t sound fun? [Quick note: I was really tempted to put Danny Seigle in but that wouldn’t be fair. Technically, Seigle was a great SMB player in the 2000’s so he should not be included in the rosters.]
Now that we’ve covered the rules, let’s get to it. Let’s use our imagination people and try to figure out what happens in each game.
Game one: SMB immediately establishes Fajardo in the post as Peek and Williams try desperately to defend the Kraken. Of course, Fajardo being the best big man in this generation, gets the upper hand. The Beermen take control for most of the game, right before Alapag and the Texters counter with their offensive brilliance. Still, after being down by as much as 15 points, TNT falls to SMB.
SMB wins 100-86. Fajardo ends up with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks. Alapag led TNT with 18 points and 13 assists. Beermen lead series 1-0.
Game two: TNT comes out of the gate firing, knocking down eight three-pointers in the first half. Alapag and Castro are playing like they’ve been possessed by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. De Ocampo would kick things into overdrive by finding his range too.
For SMB, it’s chaos. Fajardo gets three quick fouls as Peek outsmarts the MVP. Tubid gets into a fight with Carey and he gets ejected. (Sorry Tubid, you know it’s a way to fire up your guys).
TNT wins 108-100. De Ocampo top-scores with 25 points on 7-of-9 shooting, while Alapag and Castro combine for 10 three-pointers. Series tied 1-1.
Game three: This game starts uncharacteristically slow for both squads. It’s one of those once-in-a-series “defensive games” where both teams just make each other bleed for points. Everyone’s shooting like crap, even Castro and Alapag. Fajardo gets his usual double-double, but doesn’t dominate the game unlike before. TNT survives and grinds their way to the victory thanks to their bench.
TNT wins 98-89. TNT’s bench of Reyes, Fonacier, and Williams outscores SMB bench 46-15. TNT leads 2-1.
Game four: Fajardo, along with Santos, restores order for the Beermen. Santos gets a ton of those spring-jumpers (you know, those Arwind Santos high-arching jump shot with his legs sort of levitating midair). And since we’re talking about the Spiderman here, we have to remember that prime Arwind Santos was a flat-out beast. His shots were unguardable. His rebounding was just as good as any other big man. And defensively, he could anchor the entire team his alien-like wingspan.
SMB wins 102-96. Santos registers 29 points, including 5-for-8 from downtown, while adding four blocks and two steals. Series tied 2-2.
Game five: The pivotal fifth game. No historic series is complete without an epic-make-your-head-explode game five. We dive into the end of the fourth quarter where Alapag activates his clutch drive. After trailing by six points in the final minute, he wills his team into overtime. In the first extra period, the two teams trade one clutch bucket after the other. A Fonacier three-pointer. A Tubid fadeaway as the shot clock runs out. A Castro dipsy-doo lay up. And of course, a Cabagnot jumper just above the free throw line. We add five more minutes to settle everything.
Both teams are unfazed and undaunted in these pressure moments. Still, when it boils down to it, I’m betting my life on a Chris Ross defensive play. As much as Castro, Alapag, and even RDO can knock down a shot in the dying minutes, Ross is unique in the sense that he can alter the game with his defense. So in this double overtime classic, Ross makes a key steal off of Fonacier, and gets the runaway bucket on the other end. Alapag makes one last attempt to send the game to another overtime but he misses a three as the buzzer goes off.
SMB wins 123-120 in double OT. SMB leads series 3-2.
Game six: It’s the Jimmy Alapag game. One of the things I admired most about the Mighty Mouse’s game was his ability to not let his team down. I know Castro, RDO, and a bunch of other guys including Ross and Cabagnot are all clutch players themselves, but Alapag is just different. When his team needs him the most, he always had their back. He just wouldn’t let his team lose. So because TNT has Alapag, they win this game.
TNT wins 105-103. Alapag would score the last 12 points for his team, including a dagger three-pointer with 5 seconds left on the clock.
Game seven: If there’s an Alapag game, then there should be a June Mar Fajardo game. A game seven showcasing the big man’s dominance is the perfect way to cap off this dream battle. And besides, at the end of the day, there’s just no one on the TNT roster that can matchup against Fajardo. If you double him, he can easily kick the ball out to shooters. This happens in every game and every series. Either you get beat by June Mar, or you get pummeled by the SMB shooters. The Beermen’s offense starts and ends with Fajardo.
If he’s to have just one god-like game in the series, it might as well be the last one.
SMB wins 100-95. Fajardo puts up monster numbers – 34 points (60 percent FG shooting), 26 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals, and only one turnover. SMB wins series 4-3.
There you have it people, Fajardo and the Beermen are the champion of champions. Fajardo is the x-factor, the ace in the hole, the outlier in this series, and will be a factor in any fantasy matchups. Whether we’re talking about the Beermen taking on the old San Mig Coffee team of James Yap and Tim Cone, Fajardo will always tilt the favor to SMB. He’s just too good, too big, and too dominant for anyone. Literally nobody can match up to him. I just don’t see any team, in any era, who can take down Fajardo in his utmost prime.
The San Miguel Beermen are the ultimate Philippine Cup champions.