PBA legends say winning a Grand Slam is the gold standard
MANILA, Philippines—There’s nothing more coveted in the PBA than the Grand Slam—a feat so rare that in more than 45 years that the league has been in existence, it’s only been done five times.
Sweeping the season has then become the gold standard for any team and legends Norman Black and Ramon Fernandez can attest to that.
Black was the head coach of the 1989 San Miguel team that completed the triple crown.
“Whether you like to admit it or not, that’s the standard,” said Black in the Power&Play radio program of former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala. “You have to win three straight conferences for you to win the Grand Slam and for you to be known as a Grand Slam team.”
“To be really considered a great team, you’ve got to experience winning a Grand Slam definitely,” said Fernandez, who is considered by many as the greatest PBA player of all time.
San Miguel was utterly dominant in those three finals series that it only lost a total of four times against Formula Shell, Purefoods, and Añejo Rum, which is the precursor to Barangay Ginebra.
The Beermen’s 1989 run marked just the third time in league history where a Grand Slam was won after the Crispa Redmanizers won it twice in 1976 and 1983.
Alaska eventually joined the club in 1996 and San Mig Coffee of the Purefoods franchise completed the list in 2014 with both teams under the tutelage of Tim Cone.
Black said winning the Grand Slam is easier said than done and any of the coaches who had completed it know how challenging it was to accomplish.
“It takes a lot of greatness to win three straight,” said Black. “You can ask Baby Dalupan, although he’s not here anymore, but you can ask Tommy Manotoc, Tim Cone, any coach who had coached a Grand Slam team knows how difficult it is.”
The Beermen, led by June Mar Fajardo, came close to winning the Grand Slam, but failed in their attempts in 2017 and 2019.
The Grand Slam feat is the only thing yet to accomplish by Fajardo’s Beermen, who had already won an unprecedented five straight Philippine Cups.
“We know the pressure involved that even if you win those first two conferences, but if you don’t win the third one, you basically didn’t do anything,” said Black who now coaches Meralco. “That’s how people feel about it.”
Coincidentally, the All-Filipino Conference title that San Miguel won in 1989 was its first of its league best nine Philippine Cups.
And for Fernandez, taking that first step in their 1989 Grand Slam bid was as sweet as any title could get.
“I’m proud of that, it’s the first time San Miguel won the All-Filipino,” said Fernandez.
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