There was time when the salaries of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players were the envy or chief executive officers (CEOs) of large companies. For one, who could not forget the P25-million five-year contract that Alvin Patrimonio bagged in his first year in the PBA in 1989.
This article is not to paint Patrimonio as a greedy athlete, because he is a legend who proved that all the pesos he earned were well deserved. For one, he is the only PBA player along with Ramon Fernandez to win four Most Valuable Player awards.
But the days when PBA players earned salaries that were the envy of CEOs are now gone . . . especially if one realizes that professional basketball players can play actively for an average of 10 years.
I do not know when the PBA placed a salary cap for players, but that was a wise move since not doing so would limit the league’s membership only to large conglomerates. And not all conglomerates want to have teams in the PBA—go ask GT Capital and SM Investments Inc. why.
And as the PBA placed a salary cap on the salaries of players, the pay of the CEOs of large conglomerates escalated. And we are not only talking a-bout CEOs, but also top officers of conglomerates and multinationals like middle level managers, assistant vice presidents, executive vice presidents and vice presidents.
When Patrimonio and company were making megabucks, the top managers of soon-to-be conglomerates were making (based on the anecdotes I heard) less than them. And I even heard that a large listed firm paid their directors P1 million to P2 million a year during the time the PBA had no salary cap. Get the picture?
Things have now changed with the salary cap in place, and I have heard (from the grapevine) that the pay of a CEO of a large conglomerate can reach P500,000 to P1 million a month, and that does not include their gains from stock options, and the appreciation of their company stocks in the Philippine Stock Exchange.
Business columnist Emy Perez even mentioned in one of his Due Diligencer columns that a CEO of a large real estate company has accumulated shares of stocks worth P450 million. Perez, in is column on November 12, also said that the Manila Electric Co. is set to pay its top executives P517 million in “other compensation.”
Meanwhile, the maximum salary of a PBA player is still P350,000 a month.
But the biggest advantage of those who end up at the top echelon of the corporate world is their positions open more opportunities for them, like better employment in another company or abroad, or the path to establish their own business empire through connections or hard work. Just go ask Jaime Ongpin and Ramon Ang, whose net worths have reportedly hit $1 billion.
As for basketball players, a high salary at the end of their career won’t guarantee a higher salary thereafter. And this is not only true of PBA and even National Basketball Association (NBA) players, but also for other professional athletes. A number of aging PBA and NBA players are even forced to take lower salaries at the twilight of their careers.
I know the feeling of basketball players signing P8-million three-year contracts—their heads might be filled with what type of goodies and gadgets they can buy, and the cash they can splurge to get a pretty girlfriend (or girlfriends), and eventually, a trophy wife.
But basketball can also be very unkind sport, since a simple knee or joint injury can deny an aspiring player to showcase his skills over the short term. And if that happens, there are other players willing to take up the injured player’s spot, and the injured player no longer becomes a marketable commodity.
That has happened to the most promising players in the PBA and NBA.
So the next time a top draft in the PBA signs an P8-million three-year contract, we should not grin in envy. We should even pray highly paid PBA players don’t end up in skid row when their careers are over, or end their careers early because of an injury.
If there is one topic I don’t want to write about for this column, it is stories of former highly paid PBA players who are now taking up menial jobs just to earn a living.