My love for basketball and the PBA

I started as a Tanduay fan back in 1986 and followed the animo spirit. My father was a diehard Ramon Fernandez fanatic and naturally rooted for the Rhum Masters. I grew up loving the same team my father learned to love. What got me hooked to the game was how players like Padim Israel, JB Yango, Willie Generalao, Freddie Hubalde, Onchie de la Cruz, Ed Cordero, and Fernandez exuded great passion and resolve everytime they touch play on the hardcourt. I was amazed at how ‘El Presidente’ can make so many things on the floor some big men could only dream of doing. I feverishly tried to copy every move he made and grew even a moustache even though I was only 11 years old. ok that was a joke.

I regularly catch the game on radio and made it optimum to watch the very delayed telecast a week later on TV (back then there were no live telecasts and NBA games were rarely seen on TV). I bought Tempo every morning following a Tanduay game just so I could look at the boxscores. Even before fantasy basketball was a rage, I was a stat freak, and a rotisserie league aficionado. I drafted my own rules, my own league, my own team, and my own players, and yes I was part of a team roster. I had notes about the different team rosters, and made trades at such a very early age.

How hard was I into the game? Me and my cousins would endure a 15-minute walk in complete darkness (electricity was hard) to visit a nearest neighbor who’s tuned in into the game. We only have candles at home and our music were the sound of crickets humming in the night. I prayed for every Tanduay victory in every game. A loss was a painful thing to swallow. The trek back home took half the time more as our feet seemed heavy with every defeat. We couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t eat. We kept on thinking why the team lost and analyzed the factors that led to the team’s downfall. We were that heavy into the game.

Tanduay’s near grandslam
The import tandem of Rob Williams and Andrei McCoy was exciting and incomparable. A Williams trifecta, specially, was a joy to watch. McCoy was a mere sidekick but was as dependable as the ex-Houston University star. Tanduay had a chance to win the grandslam during that year but bad luck hounded the team in the Open Conference.

The team started out on the wrong foot, coming off with four consecutive losses at the start of the tourney. Benny Anders, a crack 6-5 wide-bodied inside slugger was supposed to provide that missing toughness inside for Tanduay but he was a bust. Billy Goodwin came in to replace him but didn’t see a single outing. At 6’3″, the team deemed he was too short to battle the likes of Manila Beer’s Michael Young and Ginebra’s Michael Hackett, both 6’5″. The team brought in old hand Andrei McCoy to replace Anders but it didn’t stop the Rhum Masters from reeling into their fourth consecutive loss. Management thought it best to hire a legit 6’5″ banger and in came Andy Thompson. Thompson was the team’s lucky charm and brought back life to the team’s grandslam hopes. Suddenly, Rob Williams played like the Williams of old. With Thompson in tow, they strung up 5 consecutive wins and earned a trip to the quarters. They continued their amazing streak but were brought back to earth by Manila Beer. They settled for a fourth place finish but it didn’t diminish any hopes I had for the team.

The Sheriff of Bradley shows his wares
The following season, the PBA set a height limit for imports at 6’6″. The team showed an intact lineup, with Cayetano Salazar, a 6’4″ rookie, their only addition. The team had to anxiously wait for hours for the arrival of their import David Thirdkill. Thirdkill proved that the wait was fruitful as he helped Tanduay win another title. I could only imagine if Thirdkill had been with Tanduay a conference later, they would have won the coveted grandslam. A Thirdkill-Williams import tandem would be downright scary and could aptly challenge the Michael Young-Harold Keeling and Billy Ray Bates-Michael Hackett combo. It was worth dreaming, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Tanduay folds up
Business problems besetted the franchise and it raised several issues on the stability of the team. Players wondered if the team’s going to continue to operate with all the news that have been centered on the company. Finally, the team announced that they are leaving the league, leaving a lot of heavy hearts. I cried for nights and lose interest in the game. It was worse than a girl spurning your offer of love. Good thing, Purefoods came into the picture.

Purefoods joins the league
The PBA was left with only 5 teams after Tanduay dissolved. They tried hard to convince Purefoods to make the jump to the pros. Purefoods had earlier thought it was best to jump to the pro league the following year but found an offer they can’t refuse. They were given the direct hand to select 4 topnotch amateurs, first pick in the draft and the option to absorb the core of Tanduay. Purefoods eagerly selected Glenn Capacio, Jerry Codinera, Alvin Patrimonio and Jojo Lastimosa from the amateur ranks. They surprised a lot of observers by picking the late Edgar Tanuan in the draft instead of crack amateur guard Ronnie Magsanoc. The selection hardly surprised me, with Tanduay sentinels Willie Generalao, Onchie de la Cruz already on board, and with the free agent signing of Al Solis, they hardly had a need for another point guard. Totoy Marquez came in from Shell for Itoy Esguerra. Together with Tanduay holdouts Israel, Hubalde, Yango, Cordero, and Fernandez, a powerhouse Purefoods team was born, along with my renewed enthusiasm for the sport. Purefoods became my favorite team until now, even with my advancing age. It’s fun reminiscing all the great moments I had with both teams.

Surely, I hope I can pass that legacy to my son.