Air21 Express

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Air21 Express
Air21 Express logo
Joined 2002
History FedEx Express
Air21 Express
2005-2009, 2010-present
Burger King Whoppers
Team colors Indigo and white
Company Airfrieght 2100, Inc.
Head coach Flag of the Philippines Bong Ramos
Championships none
Light uniform jersey
Light uniform jersey
Light uniform shorts
Light uniform
Dark uniform jersey
Dark uniform jersey
Dark uniform shorts
Dark uniform

The Air21 Express (formerly FedEx Express) is a Philippine Basketball Association team.

Air21 is owned by Airfreight 2100, a subsidiary of the Lina Group of Companies, owners of the defunct Laguna Lakers of the Metropolitan Basketball Association. The franchise bought the former Tanduay team after the 2001 season.



Tanduay Rhum Masters

The Tanduay Rhum Masters made its PBA return in the 1999 season, after a 12-year hiatus. This time, the team had a new ownership of Asia Brewery of Lucio Tan's son, Bong (The Tanduay team in the 1970's and 80's was owned by the great Elizalde family). After a runner-up finish in the 1999 All-Filipino Conference, the Rhum Masters failed to advanced the finals since. To add insult, the deportation of alleged fil-sham Sonny Alvarado and the indefinite suspensions of Eric Menk and Rudy Hatfield (due to lack of documents to prove themselves as a legitimate Fil-American), the management became frustrated.

After the 2001 season, the firesale began as Tanduay traded Dondon Hontiveros to San Miguel, Jeffrey Cariaso to the new Coca Cola franchise and Menk to Barangay Ginebra. After this, Tanduay sold its franchise of the Bert Lina and the local franchisee of FedEx for a reported sum of PHP 60-75 million.

Technically, the old Tanduay franchise and the current Air21 team's lineage were pulled apart as did most of the other PBA teams (Tanduay/Purefoods, Crispa/Shell, et. al.).

Laguna Lakers

In 1998, the Metropolitan Basketball Association was formed as a professional regional basketball league. The Laguna Lakers was one of the 12 original teams in the league with Lina and FedEx owning it.

The Lakers failed to enter the finals in both the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Laguna also added Fil-Americans Rudy Hatfield, Jeff Flowers and Cris Clay to their roster. Biboy Simon, future Air21 point guard Wynne Arboleda and Jovy Sese also played for the Lakers, Simon was known for his 54 point outing during an MBA game.

In 2000, the Lakers advanced to the finals of the special Intra-Conference tournament but lost to the San Juan Knights. In 2001, they also failed to advanced to the National championship.

After the sale of Tanduay to FedEx, the Lakers abandoned the league to concentrate on their PBA stint.

There is absolutely no lineage between the Laguna Lakers' MBA franchise and the current PBA franchise despite having the same owners.

2002-2005: FedEx Express

After the purchase, they named the team as the FedEx Express. The Express monicker was used as a reference to their company's role in fast-paced delivery.

In the 2002 PBA Draft, the Express hold the first overall pick in the draft. Initially, the FedEx expressed its desire to draft MBA star Rommel Adducul, but his MBA team the Batangas Blades deny Adducul's request of a release. With this, FedEx nabbed St Francis of Assisi center Yancy de Ocampo as the first pick in the draft. Also in the first round, the Express landed De La Salle University star Renren Ritualo with the eight pick. Jerry Codinera was also added to the team along with a few holdovers from Tanduay.

Many amateur and commercial league champion coach Derrick Pumaren was named as the first head coach of the FedEx team. He was the last coach of the Tanduay franchise in the PBA before it was absorbed by FedEx.

Former Tanduay forward Bong Hawkins was among those absorbed by the FedEx franchise in 2002. However, a controversy sparked Hawkins and FedEx management. The former Perpetual Help standout wanted to have the same terms of the salary he held with Tanduay while FedEx management was basing the contract on a written one. In the end, Hawkins eventually joined Coca-Cola in 2003.

FedEx's first-ever match was an opening game against the Coca Cola Tigers which they lost. At that time, Ritualo was loaned the RP National pool. The Express also added Bong Alvarez in the lineup. along with Jermaine Walker as one of the imports. The Express made it to the quarterfinals of the Governors Cup but was quickly eliminated. In the Commissioners Cup, Ritualo made his much-awaited debut with FedEx but the Express once again failed to enter past the semis. Alvarez left the team for the Talk N' Text Phone Pals, but acquired the services of Vergel Meneses from Barangay Ginebra. In the All-Filipino, FedEx failed to enter the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Ritualo was named as the Rookie of the Year after the season, to spark a promising future for the team.

In 2003, the Express nabbed former MBA MVP John Ferriols in the draft. The Express finished with an impressive second place finish in the elimination round of the All-Filipino Cup. In the quarterfinals, the Express failed to enter the semis after finishing in last place of the single-round robin quarterfinals phase.

Their performance in the All-Filipino, earned the team an early entry to the PBA Invitational tournament. The Express placed third in the special tournament, earning the team its first trophy in the league.

In the Reinforced Conference, the Express bannered Terrence Shannon as import. However, in the opening round they were eliminated by San Miguel. During the said tournament, Pumaren was fired and was replaced by former Lakers coach Bonnie Garcia.

During the 2004 PBA Draft, FedEx nabbed three picks in the first round with Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo and Wesley Gonzales. In the Fiesta Conference, the Express ended up in ninth place and was eliminated by the Talk N' Text Phone Pals in the Wild-Card phase. A coaching change also happened when Garcial was replaced by legendary coach Joe Lipa.

Meneses was shipped to Red Bull Barako during the offseason for Homer Se and a draft pick.

In the 2004-2005 Philippine Cup, the Express once again finished fourth in the classification phase and was eliminated early by the Alaska Aces.

Lipa resigned after the tournament and was replaced by former Indonesian national team mentor Bong Ramos (a Filipino). They also fielded former NBA veteran Oliver "Pig" Miller for the Fiesta Conference.

The Express finished fifth in the classification phase. It was highlighted by Renren Ritualo's eight three pointers in a quarter during a game. However, in the Wild-Card phase, they were eliminated by Purefoods.

Air21 Express

During the offseason, the Express renamed the team as the Air21 Express, when FedEx left the country. Ramos resigned at season's end, due to his failure to imply the team's policy. However, many believe that there were other reasons for the resignation.

Former Laguna Lakers head coach Bo Perasol was named as the replacement. Air21 had three picks in the first round. They nabbed PBL star Anthony Washington as the first pick and De La Salle University star Mark Cardona as the fifth pick overall. But, the Express traded Washington and Cardona in separate deals to Talk 'N Text for Yancy de Ocampo and Patrick Fran, respectively, amid criticisms by various people. The other pick went to University of the East star Niño Canaleta.

But Air21 made a strong showing in the 2005-2006 Fiesta Conference. With Perasol as coach and bulky import Shawn Daniels at the helm, the Express surprised everyone with several upsets against Talk 'N Text and San Miguel to finish fourth in the classification phase. Air21 eliminated San Miguel in the wildcard phase and upset the Phone Pals in a five-game quarterfinals affair. However, in six games they were eliminated by Purefoods in the semi-finals. At the end of the conference, Air21 defeated the Barangay Ginebra Kings to capture third place in the tournament.

In the Philippine Cup, the Express acquired Mark Telan from the Talk N' Text Phone Pals for John Ferriols. On May 8, the team traded its franchise player Ritualo to the Talk 'N Text Phone Pals for Leo Avenido and two future first round picks. Some basketball fans see this trade as another rebuilding mode for the team while others speculate about a potential cost-cutting for the Express for its impending disbandment although there is no accuracy of this possibility.

However, since the Ritualo trade, the Express went 3-1 the rest of the classification phase to finish with a 7-9 record. The surge saw the improvement of Air21 rookie Canaleta, who had multiple 30-point games during the streak. However, the Express failed to beat the Coca-Cola Tigers in a one game playoff for the third outright quarterfinals berth. The loss relegated Air21 in a round-robin wildcard phase. In the deciding game, Ginebra beat the Express, 118-114 in overtime, to eliminate them from contention.

2006-07 season

In the offseason, the Express acquired Aries Dimaunahan and Ervin Sotto from the Ginebra as part of a huge three-team trade along with the Coca-Cola Tigers. In the 2006 PBA Draft, Air21 selected Arwind Santos of the FEU Tamaraws and the PBL's Magnolia Ice Cream with the second overall pick. Stephen Padilla and Bruce Dacia's contract were not renewed by the team.

After a so-so performance at the Philippine Cup, the Express eked out a 7-11 record, good enough for a return trip to the wildcard phase. Needing to sweep all of the games in order to force a playoff for a quarterfinal berth, the Express defeated all wildcard teams. In the elimination game against Sta. Lucia, the Express came up short as they were beaten 121-118 via overtime.

Before the start of the wildcard phase, Air21 sent Yancy de Ocampo and Leo Avenido to Talk N Text for rookies Mark Andaya and Abby Santos plus future draft picks.

Air21 had talks with former Senator and the PBA's Living Legend Robert Jaworski to either accept a capacity within the team or as head coach before his beg prior to the start of the Fiesta Conference.

Still, the Express finished with a 10-8 record for fifth place in the standings with Shawn Daniels as import. At one point, Air21 was 7-3 before losing five of their last eight games, before beating San Miguel in a one-game playoff for the third outright quarterfinals berth.

The Talk N' Text Phone Pals defeated them in the quarters in a full three-game series, despite the Express' Game 1 victory.

2007-08 season

The offseason saw Air21 taking Ateneo teammates JC Intal and Doug Kramer selected in the first round while nabbing Marvin Cruz in the final round of the 2007 PBA Draft.

The buzz about Jaworski coaching the team once again came to light but the 'Living Legend' has not made any decision on it. This kept Perasol as its head coach for the 2007-08 season. The Express had a rocky 2007-08 PBA Philippine Cup, finishing the elimination round with a 7-11 record tied for 8th (they were eventually seeded 8th since they've beaten team they're tied with, the Coca-Cola Tigers, in the elimination round twice).

In the ensuing wildcard phase, the Express eliminated the defending champions Barangay Ginebra Kings, thanks to Wynne Arboleda's career-high 32 points. However, they were beaten by the Tigers in the last wildcard round to be eliminated from contention.

In the on-going 2008 PBA Fiesta Conference, the Air21 express are in-contention for the title. The 6-9 hulking import Steve Thomas is leading the team together with their main local player Gary David. Also with the help of KG Canaleta, Arwind Santos, Wynne Arboleda, Ranidel de Ocampo and others, the team finished the elimination round as the #1 seed.

Since the game of Gary David came back, the Express record was 7 - 2 (win - loss). Gary David is the local leading scorer of the express with 14.1 ppg, with Arwind Santos followed with 13.9 ppg.

The team defeated Magnolia Beverage Masters in the semi-finals 4-2. Air21 made their first PBA finals appearance. They're going against the 7 time champion and crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra Kings. Unfortunately, they lost 4-3 in a one of the epic finish championship.

Current roster

Jersey number Position Name Height Birth date Seasons Drafted College
1 Guard Lou Gatumbato 5'9" 22 April 1979 1 2004 (undrafted) De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde
2 Guard Josh Urbiztondo 5'10" 27 February 1983 2 2009 (undrafted) Fresno Pacific University
4 Center Dorian Peña 6'6" 12 October 1977 11 2000 (direct hire) Coppin State University
8 Center Jay-R Reyes 6'7" 16 July 1984 5 2006 (direct hire) University of the Philippines, Diliman
13 Forward Carlo Sharma 6'5" 20 September 1980 7 2004 (12) De La Salle University
14 Forward Leo Najorda 6'3" 16 February 1982 6 2005 (9) San Sebastian College
15 Forward Wesley Gonzales 6'4" 27 July 1980 7 2004 (9) Ateneo de Manila University
16 Guard Paul Artadi 5'9" 5 May 1981 7 2004 (11) University of the East
18 Guard Marcy Arellano 5'9" 25 May 1986 2 2009 (14) University of the East
19 Guard Wynne Arboleda 5'11" 28 November 1976 9 2000 (undrafted) Manuel L. Quezon University
23 Forward Alpha Bangura 6'4" 4 February 1980 - Import St. John University
24 Guard Dondon Hontiveros 6'1" 1 July 1977 11 2000 (direct hire) University of Cebu
45 Guard Leo Avenido 6'2" 25 September 1978 9 2002 (10) Far Eastern University
38 Forward Reed Juntilla 6'2" 22 January 1984 3 2007 (undrafted) University of the Visayas
42 Forward Danny Seigle 6'7" 14 June 1976 12 1999 (direct hire) Wagner College

Players of note

PBA's 25th anniversary all-time team

  • Jerry Codiñera - played for FedEx from 2002-2005
  • Vergel Meneses - played for FedEx from 2002-2004

Other notable players

  • Bong Alvarez - played for FedEx in 2002
  • Yancy de Ocampo - played for FedEx/Air21 franchise from 2002-2003, 2005-2006; team's first-ever draft choice and had two stints with the team.
  • Dindo Pumaren - played his last PBA season with FedEx in 2002
  • Ren-Ren Ritualo - played for FedEx/Air21 franchise from 2002-2006; currently holds almost every team records such as total points


  • Shawn Daniels - led Air21 to a third-place finish in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference
  • Alvin Jefferson - known for breaking the Araneta Coliseum backboard in a preseason game but played only two games in the 2004 Fiesta Conference
  • Franz Pierre-Louis - played for FedEx in the 2002 Commissioners Cup
  • Anthony 'Pig' Miller - played for FedEx in the 2005 Fiesta Conference
  • Roderick Rhodes - one of the first two imports in team history
  • Geremy Robinson - played as a replacement import for one game
  • Terrence Shannon - played for FedEx in the 2003 Reinforced Conference
  • Jermaine Walker - played for FedEx in the 2002 season


  • Derrick Pumaren (2002-2003)
  • Bonnie Garcia (2003-2004)
  • Joe Lipa (2004-2005)
  • Bong Ramos (2005)
  • Bo Perasol (2005-2009)
  • Yeng Guiao (2009-2011)

External links


Air21 Express Alaska Aces Barangay Ginebra Kings Coca-Cola Tigers Magnolia Beverage Masters
Purefoods TJ Giants Red Bull Barako Sta. Lucia Realtors Talk 'N Text Phone Pals Welcoat Dragons
Seasons | Champions - The Grand Slam | Conferences: Philippine Cup - Fiesta Conference | Defunct teams | All-time team standings
Most Valuable Player | Current team rosters | Draft | All-Star Weekend | Hall of Fame | 25th anniversary all-time team | PBA on ABC | PBA Coliseum

Original Source

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