In Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, Willis Reed—the Knicks’ Hall of Fame center who no one thought would play in that game due to severe thigh injury—emerged from the dugout to the roar of the frenzied Knicks faithful.
Though hobbling, the very determined Reed swished his first two field goals, cheered from the bench the rest of the way, and was crowned NBA champ at the end of the ballgame. His heroic performance to this day is universally acclaimed as one of the most iconic depictions of courage in sports history.
“Willis Reed Moments” in the PBA are so rare that when you see it, you just can’t help but celebrate the player's bravery and unparalled love for the game.
Take Barangay Ginebra’s do-it-all forward Joe Devance, for example. He’s been hampered by torn plantar fasciitis since his team’s semi-final showdown with Star Hotshots. This, however, hasn’t stopped him from facing off with two of most crafty and imposing big men in the land—first, Star Hotshots forward Marc Pingris and now, three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo.
In the recent Game 2 of the 2017 Philippine Cup, Devance came up big, scoring the game-tying, buzzer-beating basket to send the game into overtime, which they eventually won, 124-118. The inspiring performance of JDV allowed the Gin Kings to tie the series against the San Miguel Beermen, 1-1, and kept the hopes of Ginebra loyalists alive.
The following day, Barangay Ginebra icon Mark Caguioa posted this picture on Instagram to show the world what JDV goes through every game.
In honor of JDV’s fine Game 2 performance, FHM pays tribute to five of the grittiest performances by a local or an import in a PBA Championship game.
1) Dondon Ampalayo (Añejo Rum)
1988 All Filipino Finals vs. Purefoods TJ Hotdogs
Añejo Rum 65 was the overwhelming underdogs coming into their Best-of-Five Finals series versus then-newcomer Purefoods TJ Hotdogs in 1988. The Hotdogs had a lineup powered by veteran stars and topnotch rookies led by Alvin Patrimonio. There were many side stories in this series, including the benching of Purefoods skipper Ramon Fernandez from Game Two onwards. But the game was the talk of the town because of stellar plays of the upset-hungry Robert Jaworski-coached team.
Even when the 65ers led the series, 2-1, many still felt the Hotdogs could still win the series. The afternoon of Game Four, Añejo power forward Dondon Ampalayo had to be rushed to the hospital because of dehydration. Though doctors advised him to skip the game, Ampalayo, a key figure in the Añejo offensive juggernaut, willed himself to play. Feeling weak and wobbly all night, the Magic Man summoned all his strength to score 18 points, including some key baskets and a few defensive stops in the homestretch that helped the team win its first All Filipino title. Next day, tabloid reports claimed that Ampalayo had passed away due to extreme exhaustion, which was eventually refuted Ampalayo himself.
2) Otto Moore (Royal Tru Orange)
1979 Open Conference Finals vs. the Toyota Tamaraws
To promote league parity, Crispa and Toyota, which were powered by superstars-laden rosters, were only allowed to field in one import at a time in this conference. The handicap hardly stopped the Toyota Tamaraws from barging into the Finals against Royal Tru Orange which had the privilege of playing their two imports at the same time. In Game 4 of their Best-of-Five series, RTO, ahead 2-1, looked vulnerabe with its 6’10" reinforcement Otto Moore slowed down by a knee injury. Despite struggling to keep pace against the run-and-gun Toyota squad, the former NBA first round draft pick held his own against Toyota's fancied pair of Andrew Fields and Bruce "Sky" King. Displaying veteran leadership amid excruciating pain, Moore led the Orangemen to a 102-101 title-clinching victory over the the favored Tamaraws.
3) Ryan Reyes (Talk ‘N Text)
2011 Philippine Cup Finals vs. San Miguel Beer
Talk 'n' Text's Ryan Reyes has always been a special player since his Sta. Lucia days. Known for his tough defense, Reyes proved that he also had a fierce heart in the 2011 Philippine Cup Finals versus the San Miguel Beermen. Unfortunately in Game 3, the 6’0" guard had to fly to the United States to bury his brother, Allan, who had died in a vehicular accident. His absence allowed the Beermen to close the gap, 1-2, with an emphatic 103-82 drubbing of the Texters. With TNT leading the series, 3-2, the still mourning Reyes returned in Game Six, scoring 17 points to lead his team to its third Philippine Cup crown, and the second under coach Chot Reyes. In an emotional display of unity, coach Chot offered the game to his player's brother during the post-game interview.
3) Chris King (Gordon’s Gin)
1997 Commissioner’s Cup Finals vs. the Alaska Aces
Chris King was a replacement for the injured Tyrone Hopkins for Gordon’s Gin, a move that turned out to be a blessing for the Boars. With King playing the 3-spot, the move allowed top locals Marlou Aquino and Noli Locsin to wreak havoc against Alaska's interior defense. In Game Two of their Best-of-Seven Finals series, King pulled his left hamstring while attempting a dunk. Gordon’s went on to win Game 2, but faced the prospect of having King unavailable for Game 3. In the third game, Gordon’s played all Filipino at the start, kept the game close, until Coach Jaworski fielded the limping King to finish off the Aces. Despite the injury, King scored a crucial basket in the last minute to carry his team to victory. Still grimacing from the pain, King earned the love of the team's rabid supporters for eternity with his never-say-die performance.
5) Jayson Castro (Talk ‘N Text)
2011 Governors’ Cup Finals vs. Petron Blaze Boosters
TNT was on the cusp of winning a PBA Grand Slam in the 2011 season, having won the Philippine and Commissioner’s Cup. In Game Four of the Governors Cup Finals versus Petron, however, super guard Jayson Castro suffered an MCL injury that sidelined him in Game 5, which Petron won handily. To everyone's suprise, Castro suited up for Game Six, scoring 6 for 6 from the get-go and posting a solid 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists line. The Texters extended the series to a sudden death Game Seven but fell short in capturing the coveted grand slam. Castro's valiant effort, though, would always be remembered as one of the most outstanding highlights in the guard's legendary career.