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The Best Ever: Ginebra's All-Time Starting Five

The Barangay's best five ever is just legendary.
by Raul Maningat | Sep 10, 2015
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In 1979, La Tondeña Distillers Inc. joined the PBA with a team they christened "Gilbey's Gin." Little did people know that 36 years later, the team—going through the names St. George Whiskies, Gilbey's Gin Tonics, Ginebra San Miguel, Añejo Rum 65ers, Tondeña 65 Rhum Masters, and Gordon's Gin Boars—would become the ultimate crowd darlings of the league. No team comes close to this alcohol brand's popularity in the PBA, especially whenever it wins the championship—a feat the franchise has done eight times.

The franchise has certainly had its moments of glory, made possible by legendary players. We've got five of them here starring in our all-time starting five, graded according to their statistical contribution (rather than just fandom). Stats, achievements, and the skillset showcased as a Barangay Ginebra player were the main categories we mulled over as we made our selection.


C – MARLOU AQUINO

The 6’9” “Skyscraper” played the best basketball of his PBA career during his first four seasons in the league, which were all spent with Ginebra. Being the first overall pick of the 1996 Draft, Marlou wasted no time matching the hype surrounding him. He may not have been a rookie-MVP like Benjie Paras, but he did win the Defensive Player of the Year award to go with his Rookie of the Year plum.

Along with his 2.7 blocks per game, Aquino had MVP-type averages of 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest in his first year with Ginebra San Miguel. The former Adamson University Blue Falcon was the team's undisputed gatekeeper of the painted area before he got traded to Sta. Lucia in 2000.

Runners-up: Greg Slaughter, Philip Cezar, Romulo Mamaril

Career highlights with Ginebra:
- 1996 Rookie of the Year
- 1996 Defensive Player of the Year
- Two-time All Defensive Team member
- Two-time Mythical First Team member
- 1996 Governors’ Cup Best Player of the Conference
- 1997 Commissioner’s Cup Finals MVP
- One-time PBA champion (Three overall, two with Sta. Lucia)


PF – ERIC MENK

Capable of scoring with either hand near the basket and an adept midrange shooter, Menk a.k.a. Major Pain was a pain in the ass for defenders who came across Ginebra in the mid-2000s. Averaging highs of 18.7 ppg and 12.7 rpg with the team, No. 30 tore up the stat sheets en route to leading the famed franchise to three championships.

Looking at the earlier part of Menk’s tenure with Ginebra, which includes his 2004-2005 MVP season, it’s hard to think of another time when Barangay’s frontcourt looked more menacing.

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Runners-up: Noli Locsin, Rudy Hatfield, Dondon Ampalayo

Career highlights with Ginebra:
- 2005 PBA MVP
- Three- time Best Player of the Conference awardee
- Three-time Finals MVP


SF – CHITO LOYZAGA

The 6'2" bruiser, who played for Ginebra from 1986 until his career ended in 1993, is probably the greatest defender in team history. The man they call “The Dynamite” was a specialist in shutting down the opponents’ top scorers, who were usually imports.

Although he wasn’t a talented shot-blocker, Loyzaga managed to be a tremendous force on D by turning his wide body and sturdy base into a barricade that kept his adversaries off-balanced and out of effective scoring position. On the other end of the floor, the son of the great Caloy Loyzaga was no slouch either. He had a ready three-point shot and if he caught fire, his shooting was deadly (hence his nickname).

We firmly believe in the old basketball adage that says it's defense that wins championships. This guy proves it. Ginebra won three PBA titles and one special conference crown with their legendary defensive man as their starting forward.

Runner-up: Dante Gonzalgo

Career highlights with Ginebra:
- Six-time All-Defensive Team member (seven-time overall, one with Great Taste)
- 1986 PBA Mythical Second team member
- Four-time PBA Champion


SG – MARK CAGUIOA

There’s very little to argue about our claim that “The Spark” is Ginebra’s No. 1 shooting guard of all-time. He was the top gunner in the team’s four championship trophies from 2004 to 2008. He has played all 13 years of his PBA career with Ginebra, winning tons of accolades along the way, including the 2011-2012 MVP trophy.

At the height of his powers, he and Jay-Jay Helterbrand formed the dynamic duo called “The Fast and the Furious,” endearing them to the fans even more. Back then, Mark was especially unstoppable when he busted out his Russell Westbrook-like pull-up jump shot, going from point A to point B at speeds of 100kph, stopping on a dime, and then softly sinking jumpers and floaters. Ginebra backcourt greats Francis Arnaiz and Vince Hizon were great players, but their accomplishments fall short to the impact Caguioa has made for this franchise.

Runners-up: Arnaiz, Hizon, Rudy Distrito

Career highlights:
- 2001 Rookie of the Year
- 2011-2012 PBA MVP
- Three-time PBA scoring champion
- Three-time Best Player of the Conference awardee
- Three-time Mythical First Team member
- Four-time PBA Champion


PG – ROBERT JAWORSKI

He’s a 6’1” pass-first point guard who rebounds like a center and plays rough, hard-nosed defense. Where can you find another skillset like that in this basketball era? The Big J is truly one-of-a-kind. He also had the ability to score when necessary like he did in Game 4 of the 1988 All-Filipino Conference finals. At the time, Jawo was already 42 years old yet he managed to torch Patrimonio, Codiñera, Lastimosa, and the rest of Purefoods’ powerhouse squad with 28 big points to clinch the title. Ginebra would win two more titles in the following years under Jaworski’s watch as playing coach.

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Despite the multiple trophies, however, Jaworski’s biggest contribution to Ginebra is his drafting of Dodot Jaworski. Okay, we're kidding. What we’re really referring to is the “Never Say Die” identity that he gave to the franchise that lives on to this day. The Filipino basketball icon finished his career with Ginebra as the PBA’s all-time leader in assists with 5,825 and sixth all-time leading rebounder with 5,367.

Runners-up: Helterbrand, Bal David

Career highlights with Ginebra:
- Five-time PBA Champion
- 1986 Mythical First Team member
- Two-time Mythical Second Team member
- Two-time All Defensive Team member
- Four-time PBA Al-Star