Know your history: PBA played its first game on April 9, 1975

By Henry Liao

Traditionally, April 9 has been a “red-colored” national holiday in the Philippines as we Filipinos commemorate the fall of Bataan to the invading Japanese military forces during the four-year World War II hostilities.

During my younger days, the holiday was called “Bataan Day.” Now it’s called “Araw ng Kagitingan.”

In sports, April 9 also is a special date to remember for local basketball fans.

The first game (and playdate) in the history of Asia’s first and oldest professional league, the Philippine Basketball Association, was held on April 9, 1975.

Nine trailblazing franchises – none of which was related (or affiliated) to the other in one way or another – punched in their participation in the PBA’s inaugural campaign in 1975.

These are the CFC (Consolidated Foods Company) Presto Ice Cream Makers, Crispa-Floro Redmanizers, Concepcion Carrier Weathermakers, Mariwasa Noritake Porcelain Makers, Royal Tru-Orange Orangemen, Seven-Up Uncolas, Tanduay Distillers, Toyota Comets and Universal Textile Weavers.

Months earlier, the nine clubs had ceded from the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA), the country’s premier commercial and post-graduate league at the time.

Founded in 1938, the MICAA was organized by companies dealing in sporting goods and equipment and consumer products.

The MICAA enjoyed tremendous success through the early seventies. But a major disagreement with the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) – then the country’s amateur basketball governing body and a member of the International Amateur Basketball Federation (FIBA) – over financial matters led the group to break away from the BAP and establish a professional league that it would call the Philippine Basketball Association in March 1975.

With their professional status, the top players from the PBA were no longer eligible to suit up for the Philippine national team in international competitions (that was until the FIBA instituted an open basketball policy in 1989).

During the PBA’s opening day on April 9, 1975, an estimated crowd of 18,000 trooped to the Araneta Coliseum to witness a doubleheader that featured Mariwasa Noritake vs. Concepcion Carrier and Toyota vs. Universal Textile Mills.

Mariwasa defeated Concepcion, 101-98, and Toyota downed U-Tex, 105-101.

American Israel (Cisco) Oliver top-scored for Mariwasa with 48 points. “The Rifleman” Adriano Papa Jr., a former Redmanizer and a two-time Olympian (1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich), contributed 17 for the Porcelain Makers.

Concepcion got 24 points from “The Ironman” Jaime (Jimny) Noblezada, 17 from two-time Olympian (1968 Mexico and 1972 Munich, and 10 from 1972 RP Youth Team member Gregorio (Joy) Dionisio, a 5-10 guard who carved his name in the PBA record books as the first player ever to score a field (and the first two points) in league history.

In the second game, five men were in twin-digit scores for the Toyota Comets (who would later be rebranded as the Tamaraws). They were Rodolfo (Ompong) Segura, 23, Francis (Mr. Clutch) Arnaiz, 22, Alberto (Big Boy) Reynoso, 17, Ramon (El Presidente) Fernandez, 13, and Robert (Sonny) Jaworski, 11.

U-Tex, on the other hand, was powered by former national teamers Danilo (Danny) Florencio, Lawrence (Larry) Mumar, Rudolf (Rudy” Kutch and Arturo (Turing) Valenzona alongside Edgardo (Egay) Gomez, Jaime (Jimmy) Otazu, George Lizares and Virgilio (Billy, Haba-haba), who was the smallest PBA player at 5-5 at the time and is an uncle of future PBA playmaker Johnny Abarrientos.
The Weavers’ head coach in the first of three conferences in Season 1 was Carlos (Caloy) Loyzaga, who undisputably is also the greatest all-around player in Philippine cage history and was inducted posthumously into the FIBA Hall of Fame in August 2023 or just before the start of the FIBA World Cup in Manila. The quadrennial event was co-hosted by Jakarta and Okinawa.

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