The mid-80s and early '90s saw the arrival of a new crop of superstars which included one who achieved the rarest of feats.
Editor's note: Because the PBA is already on its 40th season this year, we decided to write a four-part series of articles celebrating Asia's first play-for-play league with a run-down of its most memorable moments in history, chronologically arranged for your convenience. This is Part Two. Part Three will be out this Tuesday.
Forty. Who would have thought that the Philippine Basketball Association would not only be alive and kicking in this day and age but also remain as patok as ever. It wasn’t too long ago that the departure of teams and key superstars, the creation of a rival league and the inflated salaries had naysayers and haters predicting the PBA's doom. Now the league's 40th season is upon us, and it opened to a record-setting, mind-boggling, utterly-satisfying crowd of over 52,000 that ushered another season of kampihan.
We'll say it again: the PBA is now on its 40th season. Let that sink in for a bit. Now is as good a time as any to reflect on the key moments that made the league part and parcel of Pinoy life, water cooler chat, and fora and social media topics.
This is Part Two. In the first installment, we talked about the PBA's birth, the emergence (and end) of the Crispa-Toyota rivalry, and other stuff our dear hoops-loving lolos will fondly recall. Here however, we journey to and start in the turbulent mid-'80s that saw the coming of a new age of basketball top dogs. Nostalgia fest, up ahead!
GINEBRA BECOMES THE PEOPLE'S TEAM
Screencap via IBC 13
The late broadcaster Pinggoy Pengson once described Ginebra as put together by “spit, blood and Jaworski pride.” They were a team of discards, nobodies, and players who were on their way out. Really. Did you ever think a team comprised of Romulo "Mama" Mamaril, Ed Ducut, Rey Cuenco, Rudy Distrito, Philip Cesar, and Santiago Cabatu would become popular?
Sure they had the Big J and Francis Arnaiz. Yes, they drafted Dondon Ampalayo and brought in Chito and Joey Loyzaga but they weren’t the toughest of squads…on paper. But they played hard and the term “never-say-die” was always attached to them. They are the only team to have its own chant of “Gi-ne-bra! Gi-ne-bra!” that other squads loathed to hear because it would galvanize Jawo’s team and demoralize another as their trademark three-point bombs and daredevil plays found the bottom of the net. In fact, that “Gi-ne-bra” cheer would find its way to the national team in the absence of any unifying cheer.
JAWORSKI INSPIRES GINEBRA TO WIN AGAINST NCC
Video via Basketbola80
Date: November 5, 1985
In a battle between Ginebra, a team laden with PBA veterans, and Northern Consolidated Cement, the national team at that time that listed many of the country’s amateur stars, the crowd favorite was literally taking it on the chin from the young guns. Not only did NCC run rings around their elders but Jeff Moore also popped Sonny Jaworski’s lip sending him to nearby Medical City to receive stitches on his split lip.
With NCC leading by 15 points with about eight minutes left in the game, Jaworski returned and checked himself into the game. With the crowd roaring on, NCC became unsettled and the Big J lead his team to an improbable come-from-behind win, 101-97. P-U-S-O!
NCC WINS A PBA TITLE
Image via Interbasket.net
Date: November 28, 1985
After many of the country’s basketball stars became a part of the fledgling PBA, it was up to the old Basketball Association of the Philippines to form a new national squad this time made up of college stars. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. was appointed by Ferdinand Marcos to oversee the development of a new basketball program and this resulted in the formation of NCC or Northern Consolidated Cement under American coach Ron Jacobs.
As part of its preparations for international tournaments, the squad was allowed to participate in the PBA as a guest team. Its players honed their chops that served them well in their return several years later as professionals.
But in 1985, they barged into the finals where they swept Manila Beer, 4-0, in the season-ending Reinforced Conference. Thus, they remain the only amateur club to win a PBA title.
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