By leading Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to their first PBA Commissioner’s Cup title in 21 years, import Justin Brownlee becomes the second shortest import to lead his team to a Commissioner’s Cup title and the shortest to be named Best Import for this conference, where taller imports, compared to the Governor’s Cup, are allowed.
With Brownlee having been officially measured at 6’4 and ⅝”, only Alaska legendary import Sean Chambers, who stands a “miniscule” 6’1”, is the only more undersized winning import ever of this conference.
Chambers accomplished this feat by powering the Alaska Milkmen during the 1996 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, when the maximum height limit of imports was 6’6”.
Chambers was called to duty for that conference after original import Derrick Hamilton was sent home for testing positive for a banned substance. It is one of the two championships he won that year, as he was the closing import of Alaska both import-laden conferences when it won its Grand Slam.
In perspective, Brownlee won his title when the height limit is 6’10”, making both him and Chambers shorter by five inches against their tallest competitors.
Ironically, both undersized imports are coached by Tim Cone to exploit the size mismatches while alternately playing both the small and power forward positions. Chambers often created mismatches in the post while Brownlee took advantage of his longer range and slashing wizardry, often against local defenders.
Brownlee, however, was the shortest import to win the Commissioner’s Cup Best Import award, besting Kenny Redfield, who was measured at 6’4 and ⅞”.
Redfield won two Best Import awards, one during the 1994 edition playing for Purefoods and the other in the 1996 edition playing for Shell and going up against Chambers. The height limit for imports during the 1994 edition is also 6’6”.
Strictly speaking, 2011 Ginebra import Nate Brumfield, measured at 6’3”, should be the shortest to win best import of this conference, and Paul Harris, then Talk N Text import and the man Brownlee would eventually replace at Ginebra, would be the second shortest winning import but we have to disqualify them because the height limit for imports when the Commissioner’s Cup was reintroduced that year was 6’4”, which means all imports competing in that edition are below 6’4”, with the exception of then Gilas naturalized player Marcus Douhit.
Carlos Briggs, who is often mentioned to be standing 6’0” but was officially measured at 5’11” based on my recollection, is the smallest Ginebra and PBA reinforcement to win a best import award, accomplishing it during the 1989 Reinforced Conference when he led Ginebra, then known as Anejo Rum, to a second place finished against the Grand Slam San Miguel team.
Briggs, given his size disadvantage, averaged a ridiculous 62.1 points, the highest in PBA history (yes, even higher than Tony Harris and Michael Hackett’s), in 24 games. He fired the fourth highest PBA All-time single game score of 89 during this stint.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Brownlee may become a staple part of the pool of players where Gilas Pilipinas can choose its line-up as 1Pacman Party List Representative Mikee Romero led three other lawmakers in filing a bill for naturalization of the three-time PBA champion import.
Romero, the vice chairman House Committee on Sports and owner of North Port Batang Pier, was joined by Representatives Enrico Pineda, Erico Aristotle Aumentado and Scott Davies Lanete in the filing of House Bill No. 8106.
With the likelihood of successfully becoming a law, the bill needs to pass both houses of Congress, Brownlee will become a naturalized Filipino where he could become one of the choices to play the role of naturalized player in FIBA competitions.
This development will surely increase the country’s chances of winning tournaments and qualifying for the world cup and the Olympics.
While the combination of June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguliar/Gabe Norwood, and Andre Blatche front court is still be the best combination at present, Chot Reyes should be salivating at the possibility of fielding the mixture of Fajardo/Slaughter, Aguilar/Christian Standhardinger, and Brownlee.
Add Terrence Romeo and Jayson Castro to these three and Gilas should have a combination that can dictate the tempo of a game where they could not be left open at any point while have their rebounding still potent enough not to be over killed in the boards.
This is just one line-up combination option, as at 6’5” and with the unique ability to do multiple tasks efficiently as well as the unselfish attitude of involving his teammates in the game, he could also perfectly fit in while playing the shooting guard or power forward roles.
Add to that the possibility of Jordan Clarkson playing as a local player and you got a very good starting five that can give fear to some of the basketball superpowers of the world.
At any rate, his naturalization should only mean giving the national team’s coaches more options to choose from when developing line-ups against their taller opponents.
By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS