SAMAHANG Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), amidst a public outcry, stood defiant on its decision to shelve Gilas Pilipinas cadet Will Navarro’s stint in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) due to an “existing contract” he has to honor.
In a statement released yesterday, the local basketball federation said it’s all for the players’ liberty taking their talents abroad as long as it’s done through proper process including fulfilling obligations to agreements.
“The SBP respects players’ rights to look for greener pastures. But players also need to respect agreements they have entered into with their teams,” said Sonny Barrios, SBP executive director and spokesperson.
“The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams. ”
Mr. Navarro, after his stint with Ateneo in the UAAP, last year got under SBP contract after being picked by Northport in the special PBA-Gilas rookie draft. Last July, he committed to play for Seoul Samsung Thunders in the Korean Basketball League (KBL).
To play for KBL, he has to secure a Letter of Clearance (LOC) from the SBP which was not eventually granted as the federation reiterated his existing contract and “undeniable agreement, be assigned to only and no other team or ballclub than his PBA drafting team”.
FIBA, the world basketball governing body, in fact has already decided on the matter in favor of SBP in a resolution earlier this week to not allow Mr. Navarro’s Seoul transfer due to “existing, legally binding contract” after reviewing the positions of the Philippine federation and the Korean Basketball Association (KBA) that supervises the KBL.
“FIBA issued its decision on September 12, 2022 not to allow Mr. Navarro to join Samsung Thunders. FIBA upheld that he still has an existing, legally binding contract preventing him from doing so,” added Mr. Barrios, citing the LOC as “FIBA’s policy of upholding the sanctity of an existing, legally binding contract whenever the issue of Player Transfer comes about so that proper order is maintained among all stakeholders.”
Mr. Navarro is only among the growing list of players who have opted to play overseas instead after the likes of Kiefer Ravena, Thirdy Ravena, Ray Parks, Matthew Wright, Greg Slaughter and Dwight Ramos in Japan, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos and Rhenz Abando in Korea as well as Ricci Rivero in Taiwan.
The development, though, drew criticisms including from Gilas big man Kai Sotto, who’s an overseas player himself for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australia National Basketball League (NBL).
“I’m sorry but this is crazy. This has to stop. You got players who’ve been working hard and dreaming to play basketball at the highest level they can reach and we got our own people stopping us from achieving greatness,” said Mr. Sotto, who nonetheless preached to help each other go up as “one’s success is everyone’s”. — John Bryan Ulanday