Willie Marcial excited to see tall imports take flight as PBA Comm's Cup goes 'unli height' anew

With the height limit for the PBA Commissioner's Cup lifted, Dwight Howard could finally see action in the world's second-oldest pro league. UAE Basketball Association (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Next season's PBA Commissioner's Cup could become one of the most highly-anticipated events in the league's 49-turning-50-year history as the 12 member clubs can recruit foreign reinforcements regardless of height.

Commissioner Willie Marcial told Dugout Philippines that he was to pitch the unlimited height proposal for the traditional mid-season conference to the PBA board of governors on Tuesday, and the motion was eventually approved.

"Sana magkaroon ng ibang flavor at interest ang mga fans kasi iba din ang malalaki," Marcial said.

This means former NBA superstar Dwight Howard got his wish granted when he, expressing openness to play in the PBA, pleaded through the media last January for the league to lift the height restriction for the Commissioner's Cup.

Marcial said the PBA is welcome to have the 2020 NBA champion, who will join the Taiwan Mustangs later this month in TAT, in their fold.

"Open na open sa atin si Dwight. Basta magkasundo sila ng team o kaya ng salary cap, walang problema yun. Maganda para sa atin at sa mga basketball sa fans," the executive further said.

The PBA Commissioner's Cup will remain a one-import conference for now, although Marcial said he could pitch to the PBA board the idea of giving inferior teams a handicap to recruit a second foreign player.

The "unlimited height" was last implemented during the 2016 Commissioner's Cup but as an incentive for the four teams that finished at the bottom of the Philippine Cup, namely Meralco, Terrafirma (then Mahindra), Blackwater, and Magnolia (then Purefoods Star).

Only the Dyip and the Hotshots took advantage of the bonus and brought in 6-foot-10 Augustus Gilchrist and 6-foot-11 Denzel Bowles, respectively.

Magnolia eventually let go of Bowles, who led them to the 2012 championship, after just a few games, and replaced him with six-foot-eight Ricardo Ratliffe, well within the six-foot-nine height limit imposed for the other teams.

The last time the height limit was entirely scrapped for the PBA Commissioner's Cup was in the 2013 edition, introducing the PBA fans to seven-foot-three beanpole Bruno Sundov and seven-foot former NBA veteran DJ Mbenga.

The PBA's 49th season will begin in August with the Governors' Cup, where a six-foot-six height limit will be imposed.

Just like this season, the All-Filipino Conference, also known as the Philippine Cup, will be the closing salvo for the upcoming 2024-2025 calendar.

The new season schedule is in line with the PBA's participation in the EASL.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno