Had the basketball landscape more than three decades ago much similar today, players like Norman Black, Bobby Parks or even Sean Chambers would have easily become naturalized players.
In the past, naturalized players were granted via Presidential Decree though the intercession of then Ambassador Danding Cojuangco, also the chief backer of Northern Consolidated Cement, which bankrolls the national team program.
By the power of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Arthur “Chip” Engelland, Jeff Moore and Dennis Still were able to represent the Philippines in major international competitions during the mid-1980s.
Moore and Still were the only naturalized players left to represent the Philippines in the Asian Basketball Confederation, (now known as FIBA Asia) played from late December 1985 until January 1986.
The Philippines won the gold medal in the ABC, marking the last time the country was able to display Asian supremacy.
Black and Parks were able to make the country their second home, having raised families here, but open basketball policy was never implemented until 1989 when Boris Stankovic, then secretary general of the International Basketball Federation started to allow professional players competing in any international tournament, paving the way for the Philippines to send its first all-professional team in the 1990 Asian Games and the participation of the United States’ Dream Team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Having naturalized players weren’t the norm and it was only revived in 2008.
Since then, the Philippines had lined up a list of naturalized players — from former National Basketball Association players Marcis Douthit, to Andray Blatche to collegiate standout Ange Kouame all the way to Jordan Clarkson, who serves as a naturalized player the easier way as he is a Filipino-American, but cannot play as a local due to technicality issues.
Now comes Justin Brownlee.
Brownlee is lined up from among the all-time greatest imports ever to play in the Philippine Basketball Association and his naturalization has been long overdue.
Better late than ever, is a common line when making excuses, but efforts to make Brownlee as the latest national player is now being fast tracked.
In fact, he already passed the first reading in the Congress.
In six years playing in the PBA, the 34-year-old Brownlee had proven himself to become a winner.
He led Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to five championships, making him the second all-time winningest import ever to play in the PBA behind Chambers of Alaska.
Brownlee is also fifth in the all-time scoring leaders among reinforcements and hit the most number of three-point shots among imports.
Just recently, the Kings resident reinforcement added another accolade when he became the first PBA import to complete more than 300 steals.
His greatness was more than enough to make him a logical naturalized player, but more than his on-court abilities, it’s his deep love for the Philippine basketball and its culture that sets him apart, traits that we’ve seen from Black, Parks and Chambers, who had never disassociated themselves from the country.
He is truly one of us.