‘Return of the Rivals’

Font Size
Rey Joble

The Link

PBA logo

When you see The Living Legend Robert Jaworski, four-time MVP Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio, The Triggerman Allan Caidic, The Flying A Johnny Abarrientos and Captain Marbel among others, participating in one event, what do you expect?

A sold out crowd no less and that’s exactly what happened when these PBA greats gathered together to renew their rivalry and play just for a day.

Dubbed as “Return Of The Rivals,” players who played for Ginebra, Purefoods, San Miguel Beer and Alaska are scheduled to square off.

As of this writing, the two teams were battling it out at the Big Dome.

Coaching Barangay Ginebra is none other than Jaworski, who embodied the Never-Say-Die Spirit, one that is still being carried by the new generation of Gin Kings.

Jaworski will have his former players like Rudy Distrito, Leo Isaac, Marlou Aquino, Bal David, Vince Hizon, and Pido Jarencio and Jayjay Helterbrand among others seeing action and they will be reunited with their old nemesis at Purefoods.

Purefoods, of course, is being handled by Fernandez, the pioneering playing coach of the squad.

Back in the late 80s, Ginebra and Purefoods started a feverish rivalry whose roots can be traced to the Jaworski-Fernandez feud.

The two former Toyota teammates had a bitter break up in 1984 and that partnership turned into a bitter rivalry that spilled over to their respective teams.

Fernandez will have Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera and Glenn Capacio, three of his original players from that 1988 squad as well as next generation of Hotdogs stars like Dindo Pumaren, Bong Ravena, and Joey Sta. Maria among others.

But Ginebra and Purefoods were not the only rivalry rekindled Sunday.

San Miguel and Alaska, which met numerous times for the PBA championship, also slugged it out.

The Beermen, who won the grand slam in 1989, are bannered by Caidic, Fellow former MVP Ato Agustin, two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso, Art dela Cruz, Nic Belasco, and Olsen Racela among others.

They will square off with the Aces, also a grand slam winner in 1996 and they will be anchored by the key players who won that triple crown headed by Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, Bong Hawkins, Jeff Cariaso, and Poch Juinio.

Next generation stars like Duremdes and two-time MVP winner Willie Miller as well as Tony dela Cruz are also in the line up.

Days before the competition, tickets were already sold out, proof of the marketing power of these past stars.

Stars like them are something the PBA has been missing lately. The league needs names like these who can relate to the fans, players who are mentioned in the same breathe as their respective teams.

Maybe, this legends game might serve as a learning curve for the PBA, which needs to work double time to get its star power back and make the league as the go-to destination basketball entertainment program in the country.


Rey Joble is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.