|Shopinas.com Clickers (2011–2012)
Air21 Express (2012–2014)
|Team colors||Indigo, White, Orange
|Company||Airfrieght 2100, Inc.|
|Board governor||Lito Alvarez|
|Head coach||Franz Pumaren|
|Retired numbers||1 (18)|
The Air21 Express were a professional basketball team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) that debuted in the 2011–12 season. The team debuted as the Shopinas.com Clickers during the 2011–12 PBA Philippine Cup. In 2014, the franchise was sold to Manila North Tollways Corporation (a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation) to be renamed as the NLEX Road Warriors.
Energy Food and Drink Inc., owner of the original Barako Bull Energy Boosters franchise, had informed the PBA board on March 2011 that they intend to fold, citing the plan to shift their business strategy due to its ongoing lawsuit against TC Pharmaceuticals Industries Co. (manufacturer of Red Bull in Thailand) and the death of board governor Tony Chua at the height of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana).
Barako Bull had been on leave since the 2011 PBA Commissioner's Cup and was planning to sell the franchise to Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc., the sponsor of the league's games outside Metro Manila. On the PBA board meeting, the board disallowed the sale of the franchise to Phoenix, failing to get at least two-thirds of the ten board members, although they allowed Barako Bull to stay on leave until the 2011 PBA Governors Cup.
On June 2011, Barako Bull informed the PBA it intended to sell its franchise to the Lina Group of Companies (LGC), owner of the Air21 Express franchise, reportedly for 50 million pesos. On July 2011, the board approved Barako Bull's sale to Airfreight 2100, while deferring the new franchise's concession that might be given to the team to improve its roster. Air21's Manny Alvarez mentioned that the second Lina Group franchise will be named "Shopinas.com", named after its new company that focuses into e-commerce, and that the new team's representative would be Shiela Lina, who is then forming the team's coaching staff.
Former De La Salle Green Archers coach Franz Pumaren was named as head coach. Pumaren, who has coached the La Salle men's varsity basketball team to five University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball titles, resigned as La Salle coach in 2009 to concentrate on his political career. As a result of the old Barako Bull franchise trading away their best players, the franchise asked PBA commissioner Chito Salud for concessions in the 2011 PBA Draft, pending approval from the PBA board. The board eventually approved to give the team the first pick for the second round (11th overall).
The Clickers selected Mark Barroca, Magi Sison and Mark Cagoco in the 2011 PBA Draft. Barroca was eventually sent to the B-Meg Llamados for Brian Ilad and Elmer Espiritu in a three-way trade with Barako Bull Energy.
The team finished the Philippine Cup eliminations with a 0–14 record, setting a new all-time record for consecutive losses in a single conference, which was previously held by the 1982 Great Taste Discoverers (Reinforced Filipino Conference) and the 1984 Country Fair Hotdogs (2nd All-Filipino Conference).
After a disappointing finish in the Philippine Cup, the Lina Group decided to rename the franchise as the Air21 Express, the name that was previously carried by their sister team, Barako Bull Energy.
The team had signed SMART-Gilas player Marcus Douthit as their import for the Commissioner's Cup. Despite having Douthit as import, the team failed to pass through the elimination round, only finishing with a 3–6 record.
After years of failed campaigns, Air 21 led by 42-year-old Asi Taulava qualified for the 2014 PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals and defeated the second-seeded San Miguel Beermen twice in a row to enter the PBA semifinals for the first time in franchise history. However, they were beaten by the eventual champions San Mig Super Coffee Mixers in their semifinals series that extended to a Game 5.
Sale of the franchise to NLEX
In March 2014, the Manila North Tollways Corporation (NLEX Road Warriors), together with Ever Bilena Cosmetics, Inc. (Blackwater Sports) and Columbian Autocar Corporation (Kia Sorentos), applied for an expansion franchise in the PBA. Their respective applications were approved by the PBA board of governors on March 7, 2014. While Kia and Blackwater have paid the franchise fee set by the league, MNTC requested for an extension, as they were studying whether to enter the PBA as an expansion team or acquire an existing PBA franchise. This is due to the limited concessions given by the league to the expansion teams, namely the "protect 12" policy for the expansion draft, no direct hires or carry-over players from their PBA D-League teams, and the 11th to 16th pick in the upcoming rookie draft.
On June 17, 2014, MNTC announced that it was having negotiations with a PBA team to acquire their franchise. Due to the ongoing Governors' Cup playoffs, MNTC did not identify the team they were negotiating with, but stated it will reveal the team's identity once the team was eliminated. Days later, the team was revealed to be Air21 Express.
On June 23, 2014, an agreement was reached between MNTC and the Lina Group of Companies regarding the sale of the Air21 Express PBA franchise to MNTC. The sale was approved during the regular monthly meeting of the board of governors, paving the way for the sale of the franchise to MNTC.
Air21 Express (2011-2014) roster
- Records from the 2013–14 PBA season:
|Conf.||Team name||Elimination round||Playoffs|
|PHI||Air21 Express||10th/10||3||11||.214||Did not qualify|
|Air21 def. San Miguel** in two games
San Mig Coffee 3, Air21 2
|GOV||7th/10||5||4||.556||Quarterfinals||Rain or Shine** 111, Air21 90|
|Total elimination round||11||21||.344||1 semifinal appearance|
|Total playoffs||4||4||.500||0 Finals appearances|
|Total 2013–14||15||25||.375||0 championships|
|Total franchise||34||77||.306||0 championships|
**team had the twice-to-beat advantage
|Air21 Express retired numbers|
- a – retired on December 18, 2013. Meneses wore #18 during his stint for the Swift/Sunkist/Pop Cola franchise from 1993 to 1999. He played for the old FedEx/Air21 franchise (now known as the Barako Bull Energy) from 2002 to 2004, wearing jersey #8.
- Beltran, Nelson (2011-03-22). "Barako Bull opts to leave PBA". Philippine Star. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Beltran, Nelson (2011-03-30). "Barako sale to Phoenix nixed". Philippine Star. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Beltran, Nelson (2011-07-09). "Board okays Lina takeover of Barako, TV5 pact". Philippine Star. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Beltran, Nelson (2011-07-16). "Kings to ship Miller to Express for Canaleta". Philippine Star. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Belen, Reynaldo (2011-07-22). "Franz Pumaren to sign 3-year deal with Shopinas in PBA". Interaksyon.com. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
- Belen, Reynaldo (2011-07-22). "Shopinas asks PBA for more draft picks". Interaksyon.com. Retrieved 2011-08-23.
- 0–14, Josiah Israel Albelda
- B-MEG shuts out Shopinas campaign, clinches twice-to-beat, interaksyon.com, December 8, 2011
- Management wants Air21 brand back in PBA, GMA News Online, January 11, 2012
- , Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV · Friday, January 27, 2012
- , Reynaldo Belen, InterAKTV · Thursday, February 2, 2012
- No more expansion: NLEX buying existing team to join PBA, Rey Joble, InterAksyon.com, June 17, 2014
- NLEX reaches deal to acquire Air 21 franchise, awaits league approval, Rey Joble, InterAksyon.com, June 23, 2014
- PBA approval of Air21's sale to NLEX clears way for Joseph Yeo trade to Ginebra for draft pick, Snow Badua, spin.ph, June 26, 2014
- Caguioa all praises for old Ginebra mentor Meneses: ‘Parang Jordan of the Philippines’, Rey Joble, InterAKSYON, December 18, 2013
Barako Bull Energy Boosters
|PBA teams genealogies
NLEX Road Warriors