MANILA, Philippines–It took a lot of goodwill for Converge ICT Solutions to make it into the elite list of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) franchises.
So the one thing Chito Salud, the incoming club’s representative to the board of governors, did was to extend the gratitude of team owner Dennis Anthony Uy to the league’s leadership, particularly Smart/PLDT franchise owner Manny V. Pangilinan—a corporate rival—for accepting Converge via a unanimous vote.
“In the mind of Mr. Uy, Mr. Pangilinan is a true ambassador of the sports and does the PBA proud with this sporting gesture,” Salud said during a short press briefing at the halftime of the Magnolia-Meralco semifinal opener at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Converge’s path to the PBA and its purchase of disbanded Alaska had a huge obstacle facing it: The league generally frowns on competitors joining its roster of ballclubs. And Converge is a telecommunications giant and a fierce rival of PLDT/Smart in that industry.
Plus, a reliable business insider revealed to the Inquirer that Pangilinan may even have a personal reason to block Converge’s path to the league. When the Pampanga-based company was still in its infancy, Pangilinan had offered to buy it from Uy with a multibillion-peso lure. Uy turned down that offer.
But the PBA board, chaired by one of Pangilinan’s top deputies, TNT representative Ricky Vargas, looked past all that and approved the sale of the Alaska franchise to Converge with an 11-0 vote.
“We’ll be joining next season, the 47th season, and we’re looking forward to a fruitful stint in the next 47 years of the PBA,” Salud said.
And Salud vowed to carry on Alaska’s tradition of competing the right way.
“Converge will be a strong and active member of the PBA, and with full and complete management support and continuous recalibration, we will be competing at a high level and will be bringing top-notch entertainment to the Filipino basketball fan,” Salud said.
“[The] brand of basketball, will be reflective of its core values: Of hard work, discipline, creativity, grit and excellence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Magnolia bucked a lethargic first half and got its groove just in time to carve out a 94-80 victory over Meralco in the opener of their Governors’ Cup semifinals series.
The Hotshots battled back from 17 points and then got more assertive in the final two periods to gain a headstart in their race-to-three duel against the Bolts.
“This is very important, especially it’s just a best-of-five series,” Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said in the postgame presser.
In the second game, Barangay Ginebra also took a 1-0 lead over NLEX in their half of the semifinal bracket with a 95-86 victory.
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