By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THIS year is a landmark one for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings as they celebrate 40 years of existence in the Philippine Basketball Association, which, they said, has been honed by the sense of being a family and, of course, of the Never-Say-Die (NSD) spirit.

In celebrations held at the Novotel Manila Araneta Center on May 9, Barangay Ginebra stars past and present joined company officials, partners and fans in looking back and celebrating the Gin Kings’ 40 wonderful years in Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

Ginebra San Miguel also took the event as an opportunity to unveil its commemorative 40th anniversary team jersey collection which the Gin Kings will wear in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup beginning later this month and will be available for fans to have for a limited time.

Present at the celebrations were PBA legend and recognized father of Ginebra’s NSD spirit Robert Jaworski, Jr., former Kings player and now-retired Jayjay Helterbrand, veteran Mark Caguioa, current star Scottie Thompson and champion import Justin Brownlee.

The stars took turns in sharing their experiences in playing for undeniably the PBA’s most popular team, which started playing in the league under Gilbey’s Gin.

In 1985, it is widely believed that the NSD spirit of Barangay Ginebra took form after Mr. Jaworksi in a game versus the Northern Consolidated Cement took a wayward elbow in the second quarter that required him to go to the hospitals to get stitched up.

To everyone’s surprise, the “Big J” returned in the third quarter with seven stitches on his lip and jolted his team from being 15 points down all the way to the victory.

From there the team’s identity of not giving up no matter the adversity was established and what endears it to its fans up to this point.

In his message at the 40th anniversary celebrations, Mr. Jaworski, who went on to become a senator of the republic after his PBA playing days were over, said Barangay Ginebra is rooted in being a family which, in turn, fosters its never-say-die identity.

“It’s the spirit of the family. In the different households we have roles to play and it’s the same with basketball. And for it to make it work you have to have team spirit. So if you would notice the team that works together makes it happen. Even if you have 10 superstars but don’t communicate nothing would happen,” said Mr. Jaworski, now 73 years old.

“That’s what we pride in Barangay Ginebra. We made them (players) understand that we have a direction we take and follow; and emphasis on ‘We.’ You cannot say I’m the star here. If that’s the case you go on your own and nothing will happen. Upholding team work, and again, never say never, never say die, those are what Ginebra is all about,” he added.

Since 1979, Barangay Ginebra has won 11 PBA titles, the last one the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup.

Meanwhile, available for fans to avail until June 30 this year are the limited-edition jersey collection.

For the first time in the history of Barangay Ginebra, the mantra ‘Never-Say-Die’ is featured on the team’s jersey.

On offer are the retired #7 jersey of Mr. Jaworski, Mr. Helterbrand’s #13, Mr. Caguioa’s #47, Mr. Thompson’s #6 and Mr. Brownlee’s #32.

To avail of the jersey, one just needs to buy Ginebra San Miguel products. Every six seals of Ginebra San Miguel or any five caps of GSM Blue, GSM Blue Flavors, Primera Light Brandy and Ginebra San Miguel Premium Gin, entitles customers to purchase one jersey for only P100 at various supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide.