The Philippine Basketball Association’s most prolific import in history, Billy Ray Bates, also known as the “black superman”, played a total of five seasons in the league. In 1983, while playing for the multi-titled Crispa Redmanizers, Bates averages 44.1 pts in 25 games in the Reinforced second conference. His stats went slightly lower with a 39.2 point average in 24 games in the 1983 Open third conference.
Returning back in the 1986 Open third conference to play for crowd-favorite Ginebra San Miguel and led his team to their first championship, Bates averages 49.6 points in 22 games with Ginebra. The following season, his averages went up to 54.9 ppg in 23 outings and for the first time, Billy Ray failed to lead his team to a title.
In two-conference stint with Crispa and Ginebra, Bates never missed a single game. I won’t include his final year in 1988 third conference, where he played only four games before being release by Anejo Rum 65 (formerly Ginebra).
Now let’s talk about the 10 top imports Billy Ray has played with in the PBA and how he (along with his team) fared against a fellow import. The listings are in no order, the first part are mostly from his stint as a Crispa Redmanizer and the second part as a Ginebra San Miguel import.
Norman Black (Great Taste, Alaska, San Miguel)
Bates and Black have played against each other for a total of 19 times, with Billy Ray winning 13 and Norman winning six. Before the 1983 Second Conference finals between Crispa and Great Taste, the count was 4-0 in favor of Crispa. Bates outscored Black in three of their four meetings although Black got the better average of 48.25 to 46.75 by Bates. The difference was in their first semifinal outing on July 28, won by Crispa, 140-133. Black hit 51 points while Bates tallied only 28 markers. Before the Third Conference finals, it was Great Taste who got the upperhand, 3-1, in their four matches in the eliminations and semifinals.
In 1986, Bates’ Ginebra team won twice over Black’s team Alaska. Their last match up was in 1988. Black, who was the playing import-coach for San Miguel Beer, defeated Anejo Rum, 133-111 on October 6. Bates scored his last 40-point output in the PBA with 40 points in that game.
Lew Massey (Gilbey’s Gin)
So far, there’s an available video of Bates vs Lew Massey with Crispa winning 135-123 in their first meeting on May 19. But that’s not the case in the next six times Bates and Massey face off. Gilbey’s Gin won all of them, 126-124, 148-145 OT and 133-126. In the third conference, the Massey-Jacky Dorsey combination gave Gilbey’s three more consecutive wins over Crispa, 137-125 win in Naga City on September 15, 126-113 and 118-115 on the first day of the semifinals on November 13. Crispa finally snapped out of the long, losing skein to Gilbey’s with a 138-122 win on November 20 and Bates was still outscored by Massey, 35 to 45. It was the worst record Billy Ray had against any team (2-win, 6-loss). The Gimlets or the Gin Tonics were twice denied of a finals berth by Great Taste in playoff/knockout games. In recent interviews on his PBA career, Bates cited Massey and Manila Beer’s Michael Young as the toughest imports he has played with.
Donnie Ray Koonce (San Miguel, Alaska)
One of the earliest anticipated match-ups in the 1983 PBA second conference was Bates against the former best import awardee Donnie Ray Koonce, who moved over to San Miguel Beer after helping Toyota win two championships in the previous season. In their first meeting, Crispa edges San Miguel, 113-111 on May 24. Bates and Koonce each scored 41 points. In their next confrontation, San Miguel was the first team to stop the Redmanizers winning streak that reach to 21 games in a 110-99 victory a month later on June 23. Crispa won four of their five matches in the two-import third conference, including the playoff game on November 26. (The Pinoy Extreme highlights of Crispa’s November 22 game against SMB was probably the best highlights of Billy Ray Bates’ PBA career).
On September 25, 1986, Bates debut in Ginebra uniform against Koonce’ team Alaska Milk. The game features four returning imports that includes Michael Hackett and Norman Black. Ginebra won the match, 122-115. Overall, the Black Superman owns six victories as against two losses versus Donnie Ray.
Francois Wise (Tanduay Rhum)
The Redmanizers won all their six games with Tanduay in the 1983 second and third conferences and it must have been frustrating for the hulk, Francois Wise, that he could not beat the black superman, Billy Ray Bates. Four of the six matches were decided by 10 points or less, two of which went into overtime.
Andrew Fields (Toyota Super Corollas)
Its unfortunate for PBA fans that they were able to see the best import of Crispa and the best import of Toyota on the same floor only twice. Fields won his first match up with Bates and his partner, 6-9 DeWayne Scales, as Toyota beats Crispa, 102-93 on August 30. The Redmanizers were still feeling the celebration of winning their second title of the season a week before. The game itself had Toyota missing the services of three key players – Sonny Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz and Ramon Fernandez. Andy Fields topscored for Toyota with 31 points while Bates only scored 23 points for Crispa and it was Scales who led the scoring for the Redmanizers with 36 points. Their second and final meeting between the two rivals on October 9, Bates doubled his previous output, hitting 46 points this time as Crispa defeated Toyota, 111-96.