When the PBA’s No. 1 pick is sacred: Top rookies kept for success

Since its inception in 1985, the PBA draft has produced some of the league’s biggest stars who carved out successful careers.

While it is normal for players to come and go, it is harder to envision the top picks being traded around since they are often seen to be the team’s future cornerstone.

FOX Sports PH looks into some of the league’s top overall picks who would go on to play for the teams that originally drafted them for a considerable amount of time and enjoyed much success:

Benjie Paras

Franchise that drafted him: Shell

Tenure with the team: 14 years

Winning the ROY and MVP awards on the same year is still an unmatched feat to this day as the Tower of Power made his presence felt being a force to be reckoned with. With his arrival, he turned the Turbo Chargers into perennial title contenders in the late 80’s and in the early 90’s. In 1999, he snatched the MVP title away from guys like Danny Seigle and Eric Menk as the 10-year veteran had a resurgent season. With his impressive basketball resume, he became a part of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players.

Dennis Espino

Franchise that drafted him: Sta. Lucia

Tenure with the team: 15 years

Dennis “The Menace” Espino lived up to his moniker by punishing his opponents down low with his bulking frame. After acting as an understudy to Jun Limpot in his first few years with the Realtors, Espino blossomed into one of the league’s premier big men, earning for himself the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006 while winning two titles for Sta. Lucia in his time there.

Gabe Norwood

Franchise that drafted him: Rain or Shine

Tenure with the team: 10 years*

Through thick and thin, the Rain or Shine franchise has stuck with Gabe Norwood ever since they drafted him in 2008. The former George Mason University standout balled out in his rookie year and won the Rookie of the Year award in the process. His stabilizing presence towed Rain or Shine to two championships — in the 2012 Governors Cup and in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup. His offensive numbers may not stand out as much, but his defensive acumen would arguably boost his case as one of the league’s greatest players. 

Junemar Fajardo

Franchise that drafted him: San Miguel

Tenure with the team: 6 years*

Despite having achieved a lot of success early in his career, Junemar Fajardo’s career is just getting started. The Kraken continues to prove to be a dominant force in the PBA as he’s amassed six PBA titles for San Miguel along with four MVP nods. It is clear that the Beermen’s enormous investment on him would pay huge dividends. As early as now, he should considered to be part of the league’s greatest players of all time. 

*still active with the team