When the 41st PBA season opens shop in October, we’ll see another crop of new faces. Unfortunately, we’ll also miss a familiar face—one that has inspired many of the neophytes who will make their pro league debuts.
Image via globalbasketball.com
After 17 seasons, Danny lldefonso has officially called it quits. He has postponed his retirement several times before, but this time around, the fat lady has sung (perhaps an Ariana Grande song).
From being the “Raise the Roof Kid” to “The Demolition Man” to simply being the league’s senior statesman, he showed how someone with humble beginnings could attain success in the PBA. He did it with hard work, professionalism, and by dunking on everyone’s fugly faces. Also, wala siya masyadong buhok sa kili-kili.
We’re coming out clean: Most of us here at the FHM HQ are diehard San Miguel fans (the others, especially our resident techie guy, are Barangay Ginebra loyalists), notably during the team’s heydays in the late '90s up to early 2000s with Danny I. leading the pack.
This may sound like a puff piece but please, indulge us. Besides, it’s only fitting to heap praises on one of the best players in PBA history.
It’s bittersweet to bid farewell to one of our favorite players of all-time. As they say, good things have to end. So as a form of tribute, here’s our parting gift: the Top 10 Milestones of No. 10!
After tearing up the amateurs with NU in the UAAP and AGFA in the now-defunct PBL, Ildefonso was the consensus top overall pick in the 1998 PBA Draft. To the surprise of not-so many, Shell selected him.
Then-San Miguel head coach Ron Jacobs, however, was so enamored by Ildefonso’s upside. He pushed hard for the Beermen management to get him—at whatever cost. So, that’s what they did. They traded their second overall pick Noy Castillo (aka Edu Manzano’s doppelganger) plus wads of cash for Ildefonso. We remember being unsure about the trade because there was so much hype surrounding Castillo. Plus, Fil-Ams were the shit back then. We’re glad we’re wrong.
It’s such a shame that some of us were not able to watch Danny I
with NU but here he is playing a game of H.O.R.S.E. with Gelo Alolino
(Video via Gatorade Philippines)
But wait, there’s more!
SMB shelled out even more money before finally acquiring Danny I’s services. The team was forced to buy him out after learning that he also signed a contract with the Pangasinan Presidents (his hometown team) of the now-also-defunct MBA. Safe to say, it was all worth it. Like we said: at whatever cost.
RITE OF PASSAGE
When he entered the PBA, Danny I (with his white-armband-on-the-bicep look) didn’t strike fear into the hearts of his opponents. He had a rail-thin frame and his muscles weren’t as pronounced as they are now. But early on, it was clear that he’s tough.
Initially, he mostly scored from drop passes and put-backs. Sometimes he missed point-blank shots because he was panicky. But slowly, he adjusted to the pace of the PBA. He played Robin to Nelson Asaytono’s Batman and became more comfortable on the floor.
A young Danny I throwing it down—you know what follows
(Video via TheDunkLovers)
He also learned quickly that success ain’t easy. We recall vividly in a semifinals game against Shell in the Governors’ Cup, he had a chance to win it for SMB after grabbing an offensive rebound. But his potential game-winner was blocked as time expired, allowing the Zoom Masters to escape. Ildefonso was so down that he was on the verge of crying. But it was part of the process. He went on to win Rookie of the Year in dominating fashion.
RAISE THE ROOF!
Aside from accolades, superstars are remembered for specific moves. Michael Jordan had his tongue wag, Allen Iverson had his step-over on Tyronn Lue, Johnny Abarrientos had his kili-kili shot, and Dudut Jaworski has his, um, marriage with Mikee Cojuangco. As we all know, Danny I had his “raise the roof.”
Let’s admit it: “raise the roof” looks funny if done by other players (imagine Wilmer Ong doing it). But when Ildefonso does it after a thunderous throwdown, it’s as cool as James Harden’s stir-the-pot celebration or Swaggy P’s three goggles.
Alex Compton getting giddy about 'raise the roof'
(Video via watapac123)
Every game, San Miguel fans feverishly wait for an Ildefonso dunk, just so they could do the “raise the roof” with him, even if they’re just watching from a dinky barbershop. What makes Danny I’s dunks thrilling is he does every single one with force. You can feel his energy and passion after every slam. He even posterized Sean Chambers and did the “raise the roof” in the face of the Alaska import. Sumabay ka pa!
THE TWO DANNYS
Image via forum.philboxing.com
A year after Ildefonso’s smashing maiden season, SMB got another super rookie in Danny Seigle via the direct Fil-Am hire concession in 1999. This sounds cheesy, but the two Dannys were perfect for each other. They complemented each other well, like, hmm, sige na nga, Alden and Yaya Dub (don’t fight the #AlDub craze).
With Asaytono being hampered by injuries, the two Dannys took turns carrying the Beermen. When Danny I was double teamed, he just looked for his katukayo and vice versa. It was fun to watch them make "Ooh"-inducing plays every game, alongside Olsen Racela. By this time, Ildefonso had bulked up and has developed a wide array of post moves. He started to become almost unstoppable in the shaded lane.
Danny I in action in the 1999 Commissioner’s
Cup finals—plus an FPJ commercial!
(Video via Danny Seigle)
With “The Demolition Man” and “The Dynamite” at the forefront, the Beermen clinched the Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup titles, ending the team’s five-year drought. Ildefonso won Finals MVP of the Governors’ Cup after crushing Alaska’s big men like Poch Juinio, Kevin Ramas, and then-rookie Don Allado.
Image via imgbuddy.com
By his third season, it was sky’s the limit for “Lakay.” He was fast becoming the league’s foremost pivot man. Even with the influx of Fil-Ams like Asi Taulava, Sonny Alvarado (fake!), Eric Menk, and Ali Peek, Ildefonso was unperturbed. In fact, he became even better. He perfected his post pirouette that usually led to a dunk and developed a midrange jumper as well.
Danny I in MVP-form—plus Ron Jacobs on the panel!
(Video via katsuyakatsuya)
He was named Best Player of the Conference (BPC) of the Commissioner’s and Governors’ Cup and led the Beermen to titles in both tournaments, earning Finals MVP of the Commissioner’s Cup in the process. By the end of the season, he was the clear winner to take home his first season MVP trophy.
In 2001, he led SMB to its first All-Filipino Cup crown in seven years, while winning another BPC award. He also won his second straight MVP (narrowly beating Danny S) on top of his All-Star Game and Finals MVP trophies, becoming one of the few players to sweep the MVP plums in one season.
Prior to the 2001 season, the soft-spoken Pangasinense was involved in a controversy, albeit unintentionally. Because of Ildefonso’s immense talent, Tanduay virtually said to him: Fuck it, take our money! The Rhum Masters (three years into their PBA return), offered him an unprecedented P96-million, 16-year contract.
We recall reading it on the sports pages of The Philippine Star with its extra huge headline and a photo of “Lakay.” SMB fans fret that Danny I might take the money and leave San Miguel. We mean, that’s P96 million! Half a million pesos per month, excluding bonuses! Reports also circulated that Tanduay would give him several cars every year.
Thankfully, the deal was declared illegal by then-commissioner Jun Bernardino since it violated salary cap rules. Still, it spoke volumes of how great Ildefonso was during his peak.
'Kaya mo ba ‘to, Andy Seigle?'
(Video via yoshi ida)
When the issue simmered down, another rumor sprung up about SMB trading Danny I to Purefoods for Andy Seigle, who wanted to play with his younger bro. Again, thankfully, the deal never materialized.
PLAYING FOR THE FLAG
In 2002, Ildefonso was named to the RP Team for the Asian Games in Busan. It was his first real test in international basketball. He was one of only five homegrown players in the lineup (along with Racela, Kenneth Duremdes, Dennis Espino, and Dondon Hontiveros).
Maybe Danny I should’ve played more in the endgame.
BABALA: Huwag panoorin kung ayaw niyo malungkot!
(Video via Mark Angelo Mañez)
But with other taller guys in the roster, Danny I was forced to play small forward. It wasn’t his natural position but he accepted it. Para sa bayan! He didn’t get heavy minutes too with the team’s deep rotation. Even though he was a two-time MVP, he never complained. He was the consummate teammate.
Playing the 3 spot, however, didn't suit a power player like Ildefonso. It was a struggle for us to watch him look lost on the court. Some people got mad at head coach Jong Uichico for not utilizing Danny I properly. Still, he played for our flag and that’s always a milestone. It was also the last time that he did so; so we're glad we witnessed every single one of their games.
CALL IT A COMEBACK
Image via interaksyon.com
Danny I. won several more championships with San Miguel. But he spent a lot of time on the sidelines because of his nagging injuries. We got deeply frustrated because he couldn’t complete a full season. The supposed SMB dynasty got derailed. Ildefonso was advised by doctors to retire.
But in the 2010-2011 season, it looked like he found the Fountain of Youth (or met a miraculous ermitanyo). Even though he wasn’t as dominant, he was productive. More importantly, he stayed on the court, only missing eight games. He revised his style of play and became a finesse big man.