In the 45-year history of the PBA, a Grand Slam - one team winning all three conferences in a single season - has only been accomplished five times, with Crispa winning in 1976 and 1983, San Miguel in 1989, Alaska in 1996 and San Mig Coffee in 2014. For our latest series, we interviewed one player from each of those Grand Slam teams. We started with the 1976 Redmanizers, now we talk about the 1983 squad.
Only four PBA teams have managed to win a Grand Slam in the pro league's first 45 years: Crispa, San Miguel, Alaska and San Mig Coffee (now Magnolia).
Ask any coach, past or present, and they would say that winning a "triple crown" in the PBA is no easy task. But the Crispa Redmanizers were able to accomplish that feat twice.
New coach, new hunger
Crispa was coming off a title-less campaign in the 1982 season, a rare occurrence for the Danny Floro-owned ball club which practically "owned" the league after winning nine championships in the PBA's first 23 conferences.
By the time the 1982 season ended, Crispa's esteemed coach Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan left the team, with Tommy Manotoc assuming the top post.
Former Crispa guard Arturo "Bai" Cristobal, who was in his third season as a pro at the time, said he was actually saddened by the departure of Dalupan, but he believed Manotoc was coming in with championship pedigree.
Manotoc was responsible for breaking Crispa and Toyota's stranglehold on championships during the league's early years after leading the U-Tex Wranglers to titles in the 1978 and 1980 Open Conferences. He won his third PBA crown when he steered San Miguel to the 1982 Invitational crown.
At the time, Toyota remained the top squad in the league with Robert Jaworski, Ramon Fernandez and Francis Arnaiz leading the way. But a rising power at the start of the 1983 season was Great Taste Coffee, which for a long time was a cellar dweller. The entry of Fil-American guard Ricardo Brown, along with the acquisition of sharp-shooting William "Bogs" Adornado, helped turn the Great Taste franchise around.
"Toyota we all know was our rival and a very tough matchup, but in 1983, Great Taste had Ricardo Brown and Bogs Adornado, which made the team really strong," recalled Cristobal, who went on to play 11 seasons in the PBA.
While all eyes were on Manotoc, Toyota took the luster out of his coaching debut as the Silver Coronas edged the Crispa Redmanizers, 86-84, in the opening game of the 1983 All-Filipino Conference. The loss, though, hardly dampened Crispa's confidence under its new coach. In fact, the defeat somehow strengthened the team's resolve as the Redmanizers went undefeated from thereon.
Crispa won its last six games in the eliminations to reach the semis where it swept all of its three assignments on the way to reaching the championship round. The Redmanizers' torrid winning stretch continued in the Finals as they swept Gilbey's Gin, 3-0, to reign supreme in the All-Filipino.
No cooling off
Sensing momentum after winning their last 12 games in the All-Filipino conference, Manotoc brought in former Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers guard Billy Ray Bates as the team's import for the Reinforced Conference.
Bates did not disappoint, wowing the Filipino crowd with never-seen before flamboyance, athleticism and shooting as Crispa zoomed to a 9-0 start.
The red-hot start also extended Crispa's winning run to 21 straight games dating back to the All-Filipino, which until this day is the longest winning streak in PBA history.
Cristobal attributed the team's amazing run to the winning attitude Manotoc instilled when he came on board.
"Attitude, that's the best thing I was able to learn from him, of being the best that you can be every practice and every game," shared the former Crispa guard. "That's something we were able to carry in the court."
Under Manotoc, Cristobal learned to toughen up defensively as he was tasked to limit, if not completely shut down, the opposing team's best scorers.
When Crispa finally reached the Reinforced Conference Finals, Cristobal recalled being given the unenviable task of containing Ricardo Brown as the Redmanizers faced off with the Coffee Makers.
"During those times, defensive plays were not specifically taught unlike today. So it was definitely a big challenge for me to defend Ricky because he's such a gifted player who can score quick and create his own shots. And personally, I have high respect for him because of the way he plays the game," shared Cristobal.
Great Taste, though, was more than just an all-Ricardo Brown show as the team also had 3-time PBA MVP Bogs Adornado and reigning Reinforced Conference Best Import Norman Black. Making the Finals even more interesting was the fact that Dalupan, Crispa's former coach, was calling the shots for Great Taste.
It was no surprise that Great Taste galloped to a 2-1 series lead after taking Games 1 and 3.
But Manotoc had more aces up in his sleeves. He had Bates, whose offensive prowess came to fore, plus the veteran presences of Atoy Co, Philip Cezar and Abet Guidaben, allowing Crispa to take Games 4 and 5 to finally rule the 1983 Reinforced Conference for its second straight PBA crown.
Winning another Grand Slam became part of basketball conversation after that with Bates, the 1983 Reinforced Conference Best Import, returning for another tour of duty in the Open Conference.
Toyota, Gilbey's Gin, San Miguel and Great Taste brought in highly-touted imports in an effort to stop Crispa from its Grand Slam dream, but Cristobal said they remained confident heading into the semis.
"We were not intimidated all. We know there were some teams then that were not as competitive as the others. But then again, we also know the challenges posed by the usual strong teams like Toyota, San Miguel and Great Taste," recalled Cristobal.
True enough, the road to the semis was no walk in the park.
Crispa suffered some stinging setbacks during the elims, which forced Manotoc to bring in former New York Knicks forward/center Larry Demic in lieu of DeWayne Scales. The Redmanizers managed to keep their heads above water to end the elimination round tied with the Great Taste Coffee Makers atop the standings to book an automatic semis spot.
Crispa, Great Taste, San Miguel and Gilbey's Gin eventually ended in a 4-way tie with their respective 3-3 records in the semis, resulting to a first-ever pair of knockout games to determine the Open Conference finalists.
Great Taste booked the first Finals ticket with a 126-118 win over Gilbey's Gin, while Crispa dumped San Miguel, 130-120, to arrange a championship rematch with the Coffee Makers. After going through an eye of a needle to reach the Finals, Crispa was all business.
Black teamed up with Dawan Scott at Great Taste and had locals Brown and Adornado providing the scoring support. But the Redmanizers just wouldn't be denied.
Crispa won by a narrow margin during the opening game of the Finals, 118-113. But the Redmanizers clobbered the Coffee Makers by 17 in Game 2, before winning by 20 the following game to complete a 3-0 sweep, winning the Open Conference crown and completing a second Grand Slam title in the process.