In the 45-year history of the PBA, beginning with Toyota beating hated rival Crispa 3-1 for the 1975 First Conference crown up to last January's Governors' Cup series that saw Barangay Ginebra defeat Meralco 4-1, there have been a total of 129 championship series. We take a look back at the most memorable ones, five from each decade of the league's existence. We've already gone through the 1970s. Let's move on now to the 1980s.
The rivalry between Crispa and Toyota became the talk of the town at the turn of the decade.
Atoy Co, Philip Cezar and Abet Guidaben of Crispa as well as Robert Jaworski, Sr., Ramon Fernandez and Francis Arnaiz of Toyota became the first household names in the PBA's formative years. Both exciting ball clubs fanned the flame of a brewing pro basketball rivalry in the country.
U/Tex became the first team to break the domination of Crispa and Toyota for PBA titles when the Wranglers ruled the 1978 Open Conference. On the other hand, Royal Tru-Orange reigned supreme in the same conference the following year.
Still, Crispa and Toyota accounted for 13 PBA crowns during the first 15 conferences spanning 1975 to 1979. But as the 1980s came along, the two archrivals eventually left the league, paving the way for other teams go grab championship glory.
Here are some memorable championship showdowns from that decade.
1980 PBA Open Conference: U-Tex vs. Toyota (Best of 5)
The talent-rich, championship caliber team Toyota got bitten by the pressure "bug" during the dying seconds of the winner-take-all 1980 PBA Open Conference best-of-five Finals. That nerve-wracking Game 5 became known as the "most unforgettable 16 seconds in league history."
Though Toyota enjoyed a 94-90 cushion following Toyota guard Francis Arnaiz's layup with 16 ticks to play, U-Tex mounted a massive comeback to force the extra five minutes in the knockout championship game.
First, import Aaron James scored on an unmolested layup with 11 seconds left to play to allow U-Tex to inch closer at 92-94. And while coach Fort Acuna mapped out a play for Toyota off a timeout, the Tamaraws uncharacteristically turned the ball over in their inbound play with Wranglers import Glen McDonald completing the steal. Arnaiz was forced to foul the American reinforcement, who was trying to go for a game-tying layup, stopping the game clock at 2 seconds.
The former Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks forward sank both foul shots to send the game into overtime.
Both squads engaged in a nip-and-tuck situation in overtime, before William "Bogs' Adornado drained a three-pointer with just over a minute left in what would serve as the winning basket. Toyota and U-Tex failed to score the rest of the way from there, enabling the Wranglers to pocket a 99-98 decision, steal the win and more importantly, capture the 1980 Open Conference crown from the favored Tamaraws.
1983 PBA Open Conference: Crispa vs. Great Taste (Best of 5)
Crispa's eyes were glued on registering a historic Grand Slam finish during the 1983 PBA Open Conference. With Tommy Manotoc at the helm, Crispa reigned supreme in the 1983 All-Filipino and the Reinforced Conference with an athletic, slam-dunking import by the name of Billy Ray Bates took the league by storm.
Bates, nicknamed the "Black Superman", caught the fancy of Filipino basketball fans with flashy moves and awe-inspiring plays that netted him a return stint in the 1980 Conference.
Bates was paired with former New York Knick Larry Demic and had a strong local supporting cast of Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde and Bernie Fabiosa during the third and final conference for the 1980s season.
After blasting its opponents on its way to the Open Conference Finals, Crispa arranged a Finals duel once again with Great Taste, which relied heavily on its import duo of Dawan Scott and Norman Black, along with Fil-American Ricky Brown.
However, Great Taste had no answer for Bates, who averaged 50 points in the finals to lead the Redmanizers to a three-game sweep of Coffee Makers and complete its date with history. Crispa won a second PBA Grand Slam title, a record that stands to this day.
Overall the Redmanizers also won what was then a PBA-best 12 league championships in 1983. Crispa registered the PBA's first Grand Slam during the 1976 season under Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan.
1986 PBA Open Conference: Ginebra vs Manila Beer (Best of 7)
With high-scoring import Michael Hackett and Billy Ray Bates joining forces in the 1986 PBA Open Conference, all eyes were on Ginebra in its bid to put an end to seven years of futility.
Robert Jaworski, Sr. and Francis Arnaiz got the much-needed help on the local side with the arrival of rookies Dondon Ampalayo and Leo Isaac, Dante Gonzalgo, and the Loyzaga brothers Chito and Joey that season.
The Bates-Hackett import combination lived up to the hype, leading Ginebra to the Finals, where they set up a title duel with Manila Beer, which had a scoring demon of an import in Michael Young teaming up with Harold Keeling.
Although the Brewmasters also had former Crispa stars Abet Guidaben and Atoy Co to add firepower, Manila Beer just couldn't break through against a spirited Ginebra side.
Hackett, known as the "Mighty Bucket", took care of the shaded lane, while Bates provided the instant offense on open court and from the perimeter.
Ginebra needed two overtime periods to steal Game 4 and take commanding 3-1 Finals series lead as Bates dropped 59 points in the Gins' 145-135 win.
Jaworski's charges then went for the kill come Game 5, turning a first-quarter seven-point deficit into a 63-51 halftime lead behind a strong second-quarter charge.
Ginebra erected its biggest lead of 14 markers, 75-61 in the third period, before Manila Beer got within five, 107-112, on a Young three-pointer. But Hackett and Bates did the heavy lifting on offense for Ginebra, which managed to hold on to secure the franchise's very first PBA championship.
Although Hackett was a known scoring machine after punching in a PBA record 103 points in a game in 1985 (later broken by the legendary Tony "Hurricane" Harris, who had 105 in 1992), it was Bates, who shined brightest on offense with his 47.6 points per game average in the Finals.
Jaworski also won his first PBA crown as a playing-coach for Ginebra.
1988 PBA Open Conference: San Miguel vs Purefoods (Best of 7)
Following the disbandment of Tanduay at the end of 1987, Purefoods took over its franchise and carried the core of the Rhum Masters led by veteran star Ramon Fernandez.
And in its bid to pull off a Cinderella finish right in its first conference in the pro league, Purefoods brought back David Thirdkill, the former Boston Celtics guard/forward, who in 1987 was named Best Import after leading Tanduay to the Open Conference crown.
Thirdkill, nicknamed the "Sheriff", was stellar as usual as he led Purefoods to a finals appearance.
San Miguel though had other things in mind.
With playing coach Norman Black serving as the Beermen's import, SMB engaged Purefoods in a neck-and-neck Finals battle that reached a seventh game.
Black hancuffed Thirdkill to under 20 points twice in the series- 18 points in San Miguel's 93-88 triumph in Game 4, before holding the Purefoods prolific import to an all-time PBA career-low 16 in Game 7.
Prior to the Finals, Thirdkill scored 60 or more three times during the conference.
With Thirdkill practically disappearing offensively in the most import game of the championship series, San Miguel escaped with a 94-92 win en route to a 4-3 Finals triumph.
1989 PBA Reinforced Conference: San Miguel vs Añejo Rhum (Best-of-7)
San Miguel Beer rose to become a league power after winning five of the last seven conferences dating back to the 1987 Reinforced Conference.
Having ruled the first two conferences of the 1989 season, the Norman Black-mentored squad only needed one more conference title to become just the second team after Crispa to register the Grand Slam.
The Beermen first tapped Keith Smart as import for the season-ending conference. Smart though lasted just five games before being replaced by NBA veteran Ennis Whatley.
Whatley, who had NBA stops with the Chicago Bulls, Washington Bullets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs and LA Clippers, turned out to be what Black and SMB needed as the Beermen reached the Reinforced Conference Finals for the third straight season.
But San Miguel's road to the Grand Slam wasn't easy, especially with Añejo Rhum 65 standing in the way.
The Rhum Masters rode on the broad shoulders of import Carlos Briggs, who earned a reputation as a scoring machine after recording 80 or more points three times during the conference.
Añejo Rhum reached the championship round, but not after surviving the tough stand of an import-less Purefoods side in their knockout game for the second and last finals berth, 113-112.
In the finals, the title series was marked by poor officiating as irate fans threw debris in Game 2. The situation was exacerbated by the elbow incident involving Añejo Rhum guard Rudy Distrito and San Miguel's Ramon Fernandez. Distrito was eventually slapped with a 1-game suspension the following game.
The coup attempt against President Corazon Aquino's administration also added to the drama off the court, though league commissioner Rudy Salud decided to let the finals push through.
As usual, Briggs lived up to his high-scoring ways, attacking the basket with impunity, the double or triple-teaming defense notwithstanding.
San Miguel took the first two games, lost Game 3, but came back strong in the last two games to wrap up the series.
In the fifth and what would turn out to be the final game of the 1989 season, San Miguel played all-Filipino after Whatley fouled out with still over eight minutes to go.
The local crew of Ricardo Brown, Hector Calma and Samboy Lim though took charge in the last period as San Miguel went on to subdue Añejo Rhum and Briggs, 122-111 to win the 1989 Reinforce Conference crown and complete its Grand Slam mission in the process.
Briggs, the Reinforced Conference Best Import, closed out the title series with an eye-popping Finals average of 64.6 points in Añejo Rhum's losing stand.
Black, meanwhile, became just the third coach to win the a Grand Slam after Baby Dalupan in 1976 and Tommy Manotoc in 1983.