The Stepping Stone: An Open Letter to BRP

By Voltaire Lozada, Digital Ambassador

Dear Bobby Ray Parks Jr.,

Let me start by saying that I hate you.

I hate you with the same hatred I have for LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. It is not a hatred out of spite, but rather one of respect. Like them, I think you are a gifted athlete with all the physical tools to be one of the greatest. I hated them because they beat the teams I rooted for and left me with a feeling that no matter how good I thought my team was, either of them could single-handedly beat us.

As a Thomasian, I began my hatred for you when you signed on to play for National University.

You were hyped as a homegrown phenom, the offspring of one of the most beloved and arguably the best foreign reinforcement in the PBA. One look at you back then and my first thought was that you were ready for the pros— your pedigree, build, and skills were enough for me to arrive at that conclusion.

That was why I was over the moon when UST overcame a twice-to-beat advantage to defeat you. I saw how our team fought and knew that it took every prayer from the Thomasian community to achieve that feat, especially against you and your team.

When you left, I tried to follow your journey in the D-League and hoped that you would succeed—not because of the false sense of nationalism that arises when someone with the tiniest hint of Filipino blood suddenly makes the news, but because I genuinely think that you are cut above the rest in terms of basketball prowess.

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I was happy to be able to finally root for you and Kiefer Ravena (another guy I hate) when you played together in the 2015 SEABA games. Your stint with Alab is a testament to your skills and being ready for the big leagues.

That said, I felt that the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) was a bit unfair when it classified you as a Fil-Foreigner. I mean, by blood you actually are, but considering what we know of you, I don’t even know how else you can prove that you are a Filipino through and through.

However, you lost me when you said that the league is merely a “stepping stone” for you.

As a writer who followed the inaugural season of the MPBL, I have an appreciation for the league for giving opportunities for unknown talents to shine. My knowledge of college basketball was put to the test when reading out the names in the rosters because I figured some of them had to come from popular collegiate programs.

Then there’s Ian Melencio.

I had no idea who he was, and I had to Google him to find out why I don’t know him. Turned out, he never played in any major tournaments, nor did he play for a major college or university. He’s just a good basketball player who never got the chance until the MPBL came along.

Not all people are born with equal opportunities. Heck, even I consider myself lucky to have an opportunity to write in this space.

You, though, are different. You are in an enviable position of having natural born talents and the attention of the right people to succeed in what you do. I understand that you worked on your talents to possess the skills that you have now, but at the end of the day, you had/have the chance to choose the opportunity you wanted take—the UAAP, the D-League, Alab, the MPBL, and later, the PBA and hey, why not the NBA?

Saying that the MPBL is a mere “stepping stone” for you is trampling on the dreams of guys like Ian Melencio and the aspiring young Filipino basketball players with no connections or pedigree.

The way Melencio has played in the league, he could probably get a call from the PBA if he gets lucky. But for others, the MPBL may be the pinnacle of their basketball careers.

You’ve had it tough, trying to make it in a roster in the D-League, but you had the ABL and a whole country waiting to welcome you with open arms if it didn’t work out. For the guys in the MPBL, some of them will probably go back to playing in the streets, in barangays, or probably just go back to their day jobs if this doesn’t work out.

In that light, I think you personify what the league fears if it takes in an influx of Fil-Foreign talents—those who are already primed for a career in the pros, but want to dabble in a smaller league just to boost their stock.

For some unknown basketball player, getting a spot at the MPBL may be an opportunity of a lifetime. Yet, after your first game, you almost seem like you can’t wait to move on from this “phase” in your life.

I hoped to see you excel in your debut to prove that you are indeed in a different level. Instead, I watched you play as if you were in a scrimmage. Where was the BRP of Alab fame, the guy who was a two-time local MVP of the newly crowned championship team?

For the sake of basketball, I hope that you play to your potential. It’s an insult to the league, to the players, to the fans, and dare I say to basketball as a sport for you to play as if it should be an honor for us that you’re stepping in the court. While I thought you were a bit of a diva when you played for NU, I thought your NBA D-League stint would have humbled you and unleash another level in your game.

And yet, here you are, playing at a pedestrian level, looking like you’re thinking that you’re too good for this league.

I saw you tweet out an apology, and I have high hopes that it’s not just for criticizing the officials, but also for calling this league a “stepping stone” for your career.

In this basketball-crazy country, kids would give up anything to have the physical gifts and opportunities that you were graced with, and yet you seem to take it for granted. People were abuzz when you joined the league because you were supposed to elevate the league with your skills, not your name.

I want to be your fan, but you’re more frustrating than a LeBron James flop. At least that guy played like he’s the best player in the world. You, on the other hand, seem to only play like the best when you want to.

If this is indeed a one-season deal for you, I hope you make it count. I hope you prove me and the rest of your critics wrong when we say that your heart isn’t in the game. Show the country that you’re as talented as we think you are. If this is a “stepping stone” for you to enter the PBA, then play like you’re ready for the next step.

All that you’ve done so far is step on this stone as if it was irrelevant. You won’t reach new heights if your steps are only moving forward.

You need to step up.

Owning up and being man enough to apologize is a good start.

Now, it’s time to show it on the basketball court.

Sincerely,

A Pinoy Basketball Fan

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