PBA Legends in Los Angeles
By May T. Mediano
August 31, 2008
They were the superstars of the 70’s playing along the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke”. It was a generation that will always be reminisced. Who wouldn’t remember the league of Toyota, Crispa, U-Tex, Royal Tru-Orange, Noritake, Carrier, Tanduay, Presto and Seven-up as being the first nine charter members to form the Philippine Basketball Associaiton (PBA) in the seventies, 1975-1979? Well, the country’s PBA team icons Toyota and Crispa, was the greatest match-up rivalry in the league’s history. Both team generated legends led by Ramon Fernandez, Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Bogs Adornado, Philip Cesar, Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben, Abe King, Manny Paner and others. They were superstars who willingly obliged to their fans, sat with us on the bleechers, interviewed well with us, and were openly comic to the thrill of the fans. And of course my personal cajoles to greet the BBC trio ladies for posterity.
Held at the Torodome of the California State University, Dominguez Hill campus in Carson, the event generated a rare opportunity for the admirers and fans to level with their idols. Other PBA stars from Purefoods and Ginebra San Miguel joined the core such as Hector Calma, Bong Alvarez, Alvin Patrimonio, Orcel Racela, Gerry
Stars and Legends
by Dr. Ed A. Gamboa, M.D.
August 31, 2008
It was not LT leading the Chargers to a last-minute touchdown or Peavy clinching a playoff spot for the Padres – and, Tiger’s 24-foot clutch putt in the 18th hole to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational, tying the legendary Ben Hogan with 64 career wins, could not have made it any sweeter.
No. It was Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao relentlessly pursuing another world championship on Saturday and Ron “Big J” Jaworski and the PBA legends coming alive at San Diego State University on Sunday, which made this weekend a memorable back-to-back treat for Filipino sports enthusiasts.
Pacquiao earned a split decision over Marquez in Las Vegas, putting the Philippines once more on center stage of the boxing world. Traffic may not have come to a standstill in Nevada or California, as they would have from Manila to General Santos, but when was the last time we heard “Bayang Magiliw” sang beautifully to millions around the world?
And what did we get to see on Sunday at the Peterson Stadium at San Diego State? A dream come true –- a reunion of the biggest basketball stars -- heads bowed together in prayer before the jump ball, then dribbling, passing, shooting, laying up and scoring, as if a quarter of a century had not elapsed.
Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez, 54, with 4 MVP awards and 18,000 career points, could still squeeze his lanky frame through a barricade. Abet “Pride of Camiguin” Guidaben, all time leader in total games played (1,081), still controlled the backboard. Bogs “Mr. Nice Guy” Adornado and Atoy “Fortune Cookie” Co, both 56, were as sharp with their perimeter shots as ever. Francis “Mr. Clutch” Arnaiz, 56, despite not having played since migrating to the US two decades ago, still had the trademark spitfire quickness in him and Manny “The Old Warrior” Paner, 58, was still, if a few pounds heavier, a rebounding presence.
The electrifying presence of so many basketball greats under one roof was matched only by their friendliness at the sidelines and off the court. Several times, before and after the games, and at half time, the players went out of their way to shake hands with adoring fans and have their pictures happily taken with them. They patiently signed autographs – on souvenir programs and shirts, on basketballs, shoes, and on whatever fans offered to take home as treasured souvenirs.
Atoy Co roamed the stadium during the last quarter, up and down bleachers, to kid around with fans. I was impressed that Ron Jaworski kept signing shirts and entertaining fans, even as he was busy coaching his team to a 99-87 victory. Manny Paner took the time to chat, even inviting us to call him up at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila where he currently works.
Led by Abe King, Jr., who was constantly joking with everyone around, every single player -- from the old guards (Jaworki, Paner, Co, Adornado, Cezar, Arnaiz, Victorino, Villamin, De La Cruz, etc.) to the youngest stars (Patrimonio, Magsanoc, Alvarez, Meneses, Lago, Bade, etc.) -- readily mingled with the crowd. These remarkable athletes showed us they were not only stars and legends; they proved to be true gentlemen as well.
The PBA Legends USA Foundation, under the leadership of Abe King, Jr. who now divides his time between Gig Harbor, Washington, and Hawai'i, has come up with a worthwhile project – a grand reunion tour of the Philippines’ greatest basketball players (to the delight of US based basketball fans) and a venue to raise funds for charitable and educational projects in the Philippines and in the USA. Since the Foundation is a 501C3 non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, individual and corporate donors may deduct their charitable contributions to the foundation.
We hope that the "brief shining moment" we experienced this weekend was the first of many more to come. We look forward to the return of the PBA stars to San Diego and to even more generous commercial and community support for this worthwhile endeavor. On his end, Abe King Jr. promised that his players would hit the gym and train even harder for next year’s event.