Winning the PBA MVP — the highest individual honor in the league — is a big deal. However, with the storyline and narrative changing year after year, ranking the best MVP seasons is a tricky but interesting task.
Today, we look back at the five Most Valuable Players at the start of the 2000s and rank them not only by numbers but also by other key factors such as team accomplishments, roster help and the situation the player was named MVP.
5. Willie Miller, 2002
Season averages: 9.8 points, 3.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds
Willie “Thriller” Miller’s acrobatic displays and flashiness awed Filipino fans back in 2002. Nonetheless, his MVP win still came as a shock considering that his Red Bull teammate, Davonn Harp, led the statistical race.
Sure, Miller was pivotal in helping the Batang Red Bull Thunder defend their title in the Commissioner’s Cup and finish fourth in the All-Filipino Cup, but one could consider his win as a “sentimental MVP” award. After all, there was a strong desire from the media for a homegrown talent to take home the trophy.
The then 25-year-old Miller, who didn’t win any Best Player of the Conference award in the season, also became the first and only player to not average in double figures in his MVP year.
4. James Yap, 2005
Season averages:17.6 points, 1.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds
Big Game James won the first of his two MVPs in the 2005-06 season, leading the Purefood Chunkees to a second-place finish in the Fiesta Conference and to the championship in the Philippine Cup.
He led the league in statistical points, which was more than enough to get the nod from the media and the PBA’s four-man MVP committee.
While James won neither a BPC plum nor a Finals MVP award, his consistency still proved crucial for Purefoods in their back-to-back finals appearances. What was expected to be a close MVP race between Yap, teammate Kerby Raymundo and Red Bull’s Enrico Villanueva also never materialized, thanks to the dominant showing from the University of the East product.
3. Eric Menk, 2004
Season averages: 17.5 points, 2.3 assists, 11.8 rebounds
It’s safe to say Menk caused “major pain” in the 2004-05 PBA campaign.
At a time when the PBA shifted to a two-conference set-up—including a special transitional tournament called the Fiesta Conference—Menk was arguably the best player on the hardwood night in and night out.
The walking double-double machine was adjudged as the Best Player of the Conference and Finals MVP in both the Fiesta Conference and the Philippine Cup, paving his way to the MVP honor—the first player in franchise history to ever win the award.
2. Asi Taulava, 2003
Season averages: 23.4 points, 3.6 assists, 13.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
The ageless wonder that is Asi Taulava won his lone MVP plum in 2003, and what a year that was for the Fil-Tongan center.
He anchored the Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals on both ends of the floor in the All-Filipino Cup, a tournament where he was named Best Player and Finals MVP.
Taulava got some much-needed help from then-rookie Jimmy Alapag to bag the All-Filipino trophy, helping the Phone Pals overcome a 0-2 finals deficit and win the next four games against the Coca-Cola Tigers en route to the championship.
The 6-foot-9 giant was simply unstoppable and he eventually beat the Tigers’ Rudy Hatfield, the 2003 Reinforced Conference Best Player, and Rafi Reavis for the individual top prize of the season.
1. Danny Ildefonso, 2000 and 2001
Season averages (2000): 15.2 points, 3.2 assists, 8.8 rebounds
(2001): 14.7 points, 4.5 assists, 8.6 rebounds
If back-to-back MVPs aren’t enough for Ildefonso to top this list, I don’t know what will suffice.
Forming a dynamic partnership with Danny Seigle, Ildefonso sparked San Miguel Beermen to win the Governors’ and Commissioner’s Cup in 2000. The so-called Demolition Man then followed it up with the All-Filipino Cup title in 2001 while guiding the team to runner-up finishes in the other two conferences.
While one could argue that Seigle also deserved the honor in both years, Ildefonso’s five BPCs in two seasons suggest otherwise. He swept the best player award in his first MVP year before winning two more (Commissioner’s and Governor’s) the following season.