MANILA, Philippines - Billy Ray Bates, a Mississippi sharecroppers’ son who made a name for himself as a dunking icon in his prime, is seriously considering to apply for Filipino citizenship and staying here for good.
Bates, 55, flew in last October to be inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame and hasn’t left town since his arrival. He was recently hired by the Asean Basketball League (ABL) team Philippine Patriots as a skills coach. Patriots team manager Erick Arejola told The STAR recently that management is pleased with Bates’ involvement in polishing the players’ skills, particularly working with big men.
“Yeah, I can see myself living in the Philippines for the next seven years or maybe forever,” said Bates who’s on a six-day furlough as the Patriots went out of town to participate in a pre-season tournament in Bangkok. “I want to apply for Filipino citizenship. My wife (Beverly) is still in the US. I miss her a lot. I’m still working on sponsors to bring her over. I’m open to endorsements although nothing is final yet on that end. There are negotiations, though, for me to endorse certain products. I love the Philippines and the Filipino people. This is a big break for me, a second chance to make something out of my life, and I’m grateful to Mr. (Mikee) Romero for making it happen.”
Bates lives in a condo unit in Eastwood and couldn’t ask anything more from the Patriots as far as comfortable living conditions are concerned. “When they’re at practice, I’m at practice,” said Bates. “I’ve got a lot to share with the players and I’m excited to be working with a team again. This is a second life for me. I owe it all to my Filipino friends and fans. I owe it to the PBA for bringing me over to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
The Patriots are co-owned by Romero and businessman Tony Boy Cojuangco. They’re on their third ABL season. The Patriots captured the inaugural ABL title with coach Louie Alas and went to the finals last year only to lose to Thailand. Now, the team has been retooled under new coach Glenn Capacio with a cast featuring only Warren Ybanez as holdover and eight other PBA veterans. The three players with no PBA experience in the roster are Aldrech Ramos, Eder Saldua and Bogart Raymundo. The PBA veterans are Al Vergara, Marcy Arellano, Reed Juntilla, Jonathan Fernandez, Eddie Laure, Erick Rodriguez, Ardy Larong, Rob Wainwright and Ybanez. The Patriots imports are 6-6 Anthony Johnson of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and 6-9 Nakiea Miller of Iona University.
Johnson, 32, has played three conferences in the PBA with Coca-Cola in 2007 and Sta. Lucia Realty in 2009 and 2010, averaging close to 30 points. Miller, 32, is a two-year ABL import with previous stints in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur.
Bates played four seasons in the NBA, suiting up for Portland, Washington and the Los Angeles Lakers. In six playoff outings, he averaged a whopping 26.7 points with the Trail Blazers. David Halberstam, in his book “The Breaks of the Game,” described Bates as “dazzling, a player of awesome, almost completely undisciplined talent ... he seemed to go up for dunks and hang in the air and then hang some more and then dunk over much taller players.”
In 1978, Bates set a pro record for destruction – he wrecked five backboards during the Continental league season, reported Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo in their book “Believe It Or Else.” “At 6-4 and 210 pounds, Bates was unusually strong and his 42-inch vertical leap made him a terror on the boards,” said Nash and Zullo. “Playing in the Continental league, the power Bates left a trail of shattered backboards strewn in his wake – the first three before the season even started.”
Bates was a cult figure in the NBA and wreaked havoc as an import in the PBA playing for Crispa and Ginebra San Miguel. He averaged 46.2 points in 98 total games in the PBA, collecting three titles in the process. An addiction to cocaine and alcohol led to a tumultuous downturn in his life, resulting in a seven-year prison sentence for robbing a gasoline station at knifepoint and slashing the ear of an attendant to steal just $5 in 1998. Today, Bates is clean and on the right track. He has embraced the Lord and with his wife’s support, walks the straight path.