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PBA legends recall league's greatest moments

April 9, 2010 12:01am

For 35 years, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has been the country’s premier professional cage league and became one of the reasons why we became a "basketball-crazy nation."

PBA legends and members of the league’s 25 Greatest Players – like Bogs Adornado, Atoy Co and four-time most valuable player Alvin Patrimonio – as well as coaches and officials who became part of the PBA’s success shared their most memorable moments in the league that we grew up watching.

"There were a lot of great memories while I’m playing in the PBA," Adornado told GMANews.TV. "All those championships were memorable. The last 16 seconds of the game between U-Tex and Toyota, the time when the legendary Baby Dalupan designated me to become a point guard in a championship series which we’ve won and also the third MVP which I’ve won, were indeed memorable."

The 1980 Open Conference finals between U-Tex and Toyota proved to be a classic. Down by four, 94-90, with 16 seconds left in the game, the Wranglers completed yet one of the greatest comebacks in PBA history by forcing overtime and winning the game in the process, 99-98, to win the crown.

Adornado, who just transferred to the Wranglers after being released by Crispa that same conference, played a key role in the series along with Lim Eng Beng, and imports Glen McDonald and Aaron James.

In the 1979 All-Filipino finals, Adornado, who just recovered from an injury, played point guard for the Redmanizers during their title series against the Toyota Tamaraws. Crispa won the series, 3-1.

Crispa's Bogs Adornado against Toyota's Robert Jaworski Crispa Facebook page
"It wasn’t in the game plan. I was surprised because I just recovered from an injury and coach Baby inserted me in the starting unit to play point guard, the first time in my career I played that position," said the PBA MVP of the 1975, 1976 and 1981 seasons.

Co, Adornado’s former teammate, could not forget the time when Crispa and Toyota players really hated each other.

According to basketball historian Atty. Percy Flores of MYPBA.com, on April 17, 1977, Crispa edged Toyota but the game was marred by a free-for-all.

"The main protagonists of the post-game fight were Co and Ramon Fernandez of Toyota," said Flores." Two days later, the two teams were invited by then Metrocom chief Prospero Olivas for questioning at the Fort Bonifacio, where they were detained for one night."

"It was the only time in PBA history that players were detained because of a fight. No charges were pressed. They were given lectures on the virtues of the New Society and how fights like this spoil the thrust and image of the Marcos dictatorship of a reformed and disciplined Philippine society," added Flores.

Co said the Crispa-Toyota rivalry pushed players of both teams to give their best.

"We’re rivals and we have a saying that we can not lose to Toyota. But as the years pass, we became friends. Especially Mon (Fernandez) since we became teammates while playing for Manila Beer," said Co.
Francis Arnaiz of Toyota against Atoy Co and Freddie Hubalde of Crispa. Crispa Facebook page


More than just a PBA grandslam coach, Norman Black was a long-time import in the league. He started his PBA career as Tefilin’s reinforcement in 1981 then transferred to San Miguel the following year and transformed the Beermen to become a dynasty from the late 80s to early 90s.

As a player and a coach, Black had so many interesting stories to tell.

"The 1988 Open Conference finals against Purefoods bannered by David Thirdkill and locals like Mon Fernandez and rookies Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera and Glenn Capacio, was indeed memorable. We were down 3-2, but we went on to win the last two games to win the championship," said Black. “Of course, being a grandslam coach and being inducted in the PBA Hall of Fame was indeed memorable as well."

League transformation
Commissioner Sonny Barrios joined the PBA in 1984 and saw the transformation of the league to become the premier sports entertainment.

"On top of my list is the PBA All-Star Game in 1989 when the Veterans won over the Rookies, Sophomores and Juniors squad. A lot of fans were certainly given a treat, especially the last play involving (Robert) Jaworski and Fernandez," said Barrios.
Mon Fernandez of Toyota vs Philip Cezar of Crispa. Crispa Facebook page

Prior to that game, Fernandez and Jaworski – teammates in Toyota – became rivals after the Tamaraws disbanded in 1984.

The Jaworski faction went to Gilbey’s Gin, which later became Ginebra and turned out to become the league’s ultimate never-say-die team while Fernandez went to Beer Hausen, which bought the Toyota franchise.

Tension seems to rise every time their teams played against each other. Only legendary coach Dalupan managed to break the rift between Jaworski and Fernandez when he paired the two league giants in the Veterans team during the 1989 All-Star game.

Fernandez and Jaworski’s reconciliation also paved the way for another partnership in 1990 when the PBA formed their first-ever all-pro team to the Beijing Asiad. Jaworski was coach of the team and Fernandez the team captain.

For Barrios, it was indeed another memorable experience for the PBA.

"Well, the first all-pro team where we finished silver was unforgettable. I was with the league when San Miguel and Alaska won grandslam titles and was part of the committee that selected the 25 Greatest Players," said Barrios. "On a personal note, my appointment as officer in charge in 2007 and as commissioner in 2008 was the highlight of my career."

Purefoods board governor and league’s vice chairman of the board Rene Pardo was convinced the Crispa-Toyota rivalry was one of the biggest reasons for the PBA’s success.

Atoy Co of Crispa against Robert Jaworski of Toyota. Crsipa Facebook page
"It was a memorable experience when Purefoods joined the PBA in 1988. Then I was appointed team manager in 1999 and it was also a great experience winning three championships for the team under my watch," said Pardo.

Patrimonio said he grew up watching legendary players like Jaworski and Fernandez of Toyota as well as Adornado, Co and Philip Cezar of Crispa.

"I’m so grateful experiencing these things while playing in the PBA. In a way, the time when I entered the PBA I had the chance to play with the league’s pioneers up to the time when teams started hiring Fil-Ams," said Patrimonio, who together with Fernandez are the only four-time MVP winners.

While playing for Purefoods, Patrimonio has won six championships on top of individual accolades and being chosen to play for the all-pro PBA team three times in his career. He played in 600 straight games to earn the moniker of the league’s Ironman.

Air21 coach Yeng Guiao, one of the most experienced mentors in the PBA today, saw how the PBA transformed. "I believe, I have lasted five commissioners since I joined the PBA. That’s why I saw how the league changed."

"I was there during the time when Jaworski and Fernandez were still playing, and during the peak of Patrimonio, Lastimosa, Allan Caidic and Samboy Lim. When I returned to the PBA coaching scene, it was the Fil-Ams who became the center of attention. So all those changes I’ve seen them in my 20 years in the PBA," said Guiao. – Rey Joble, GMANews.TV