Coach Tim Cone has been coaching for over three decades now, which makes it hard for him to rank the best imports he has handled.
The PBA’s most accomplished mentor, with 22 championships, estimated that he has had “at least a hundred imports”, and admitted he has forgotten some of them.
“It is so difficult, and I hate it every time they’re always asking me to rank this or rank that,” said Cone in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’s Coaches Unfiltered, presented by SMART.
“Because the problem is, you’re always leaving somebody out. Over thirty years, I got a lot of imports to rank. I got imports that I remember I was going through these books and I was looking and I was saying, ‘God I don’t even remember this import, I had that import?’ I don’t remember his name. I’ve had so many imports for over thirty years.”
However, Cone easily named his top two. And for those who have followed the teams he’s coached, the choices are no-brainers.
For the American bench tactician, the retired Sean Chambers and Barangay Ginebra resident import Justin Brownlee are on top of his list.
“The top two are pretty obvious, and I think they rank in the top list of all-time PBA imports — and that’s Sean Chambers and Justin Brownlee,” Cone said.
Chambers has a special place in Cone’s heart after helping the latter win his first PBA title, when Alaska conquered the 1991 Third Conference.
He would then help the Milkmen win five more championships, including the historic Grand Slam feat in 1996 — the same year he won his lone Best Import award.
Chambers, who played for Alaska from 1989-2001, has a total of six PBA rings, which is the most among imports.
On the other hand, Brownlee began his PBA career in 2016. He captivated the hearts of the Ginebra faithful, leading the Gin Kings to end their eight-year title drought.
And it came in the most memorable way possible — by sinking a game-winning three in Game Six of the Governors’ Cup Finals to beat Meralco.
Cone has stuck with Brownlee ever since, and that has more than paid dividends. Together, they have helped the Barangay win three more championships – and they look to add more.
Brownlee also earned Best Import honors in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup, becoming the shortest import — at 6-foot-4 and 5/8 — to achieve the feat.
For Cone, Chambers and Brownlee carry contrasting personalities, but they are both well-loved by the people around them.
“Their personalities are polar opposites,” he said. “As you know, Justin is extremely quiet, he’s a giggler. He likes to laugh and he likes to hang out with his teammates, but he likes to laugh with them. But he doesn’t lead conversations at all.
“On the other hand, Sean is like me, he’s a gabber. He talks, he talks, he talks and he’s always creating the jokes and then laughing at his own jokes, and people laugh with them. And he’s just so much fun to be around,” Cone furthered.
“Justin’s like, so comfortable to be around. Sean is like the life-of-the party type of guy to be around.”
One other striking similarity between them, according to Cone, is how they approach the game, hence the success they’ve had in their careers.
“But the approach they bring to the game — the unselfishness, the humility and the seriousness in practice, and the leadership of leading by example — is almost… They’re exactly on the same narrow path.”