Why I cheer for the PBA: My favorite PBA memories

The PBA is one big roller coaster ride. Just last season, the league has experienced highs (record-breaking attendance numbers in the Governor’s Cup Finals) and lows.

Even with all the controversies and issues, the fact still remains: the PBA is our ride, it’s our league.

To hype up the start of the 43rd season of the league, the SLAM PH writers have teamed up to write about how why they’re cheering for the PBA.

From Danny I and SMB to Johnny A to Manila Clasico and this year’s rookies. These are the reasons why we got started. These are the reasons why we’re still here.

Watching the PBA was huge part of my childhood. While other kids got rushed home to catch TV shows like Dawson’s Creek, 7th Heaven, Gimik and Tabing Ilog, all I needed was my PBA (kidding of course, Gimik was the best). Dinner never felt complete if we weren’t watching a game on the TV.

Before I started covering the league, I was just a big, big fan of it. And even now that I’m somehow involved with it, I still get excited – to see highlights, to meet players and to just be around the games.

Let me share some of my favorite PBA memories growing up.

Meeting Danny I

I’ve shared this before.

My dad took me, my brother and my cousin to watch a game at the Cuneta Astrodome. At that time, his former colleague, Jojo Villa, was part of the coaching staff of San Miguel. Coach Jojo gave me a chance to meet my ultimate PBA idol, Danny Ildefonso, before the game tipped off. Danny asked for me name. I didn’t even get to respond. I was frozen, starstruck.

Later in the game, he dunked and pointed to me in the stands. It was, by far, the most memorable moment of my life as a PBA fan.

1999 Slam Dunk Contest

Here’s a fact: dunk contests in the PBA are not nearly as exciting as those of the NBA. Filipinos are just generally not as athletically gifted as the players in the States. But we find ways to make our contests fun. We come up with exhibitions such as side-step dunks and blind-folded misses.

Not to say though that we haven’t had our share of exciting dunk contests. The 1999 edition of the dunk off was my favorite. It had Asi Taulava trying to bring the rim down with a double pump, reverse jam. It had Mark Telan tapping the board with his left hand, spinning and dunking with his right. Then it had Rob Parker just being the athletic beast that he was, teaming up with Sta. Lucia import Kwan Johnson to pull off NBA-ish tricks.

I was so entertained I had the replay recorded on VHS. Man, I gotta look for that tape… and a still-functioning VHS player.

Lamont “The Helicopter” Strothers

Before AZ Reid, before Gabe Freeman and before Charles Rhodes, San Miguel had Lamont Strothers as their resident import.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of The Helicopter. I followed his career from when he started playing with jersey number 42, to when he had to switch to number 6 because Danny Seigle had arrived, to his last couple of stints wearing 33 because Dorian Peña was using his previous number.

During lunch breaks back in grade school, I would emulate the moves Strothers made the night before. I wasn’t as successful as he was with them.

Playing in the PBA…halftime games

If I’m not mistaken, this happened in 2001. I was playing for Don Bosco Makati in the SBP tournament. One of my teammate’s grandfather was head of referees in the PBA. One game day, they invited our team to be the league’s special guest.

It was awesome to see another PBA game live. But what completed the experience was getting to participate in one of those halftime/quarter-break games.

The one I participated in was where I had to run from the baseline to the free throw line and wear oversized shoes, run to halfcourt and wear big ass shorts, run to the next free throw and wear an extremely large jersey, then make a shot.

I beat my teammate in that game and I took home what in my memory was 300 pesos. Not too shabby for an 11-year old kid running in size 13 sneakers.

Denzel Bowles and “THERE’S A FOUL!”

This memory is a bit more recent compared to the other ones. You guys are probably familiar with it. It was game seven of the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup. Talk ‘N Text versus B-Meg.

I remember being out with SLAM EIC Nikko Ramos at that time. We rushed to his house as quickly as we can so we could catch the game. We didn’t make it to tip-off, but we caught the most important part – fourth quarter.

It was a living room full of Nikko’s relatives – brothers, cousins, titos, etc. It was packed with people yet it was so silent. Until that final possession happened.

Bowles got fouled and everyone started screaming. You could even hear those coming from the neighbors. While Denzel was shooting free throws, some guys were stomping their feet and shaking furniture, as if that would distract the shooter through the television. It was like we were right there in Araneta.

These are just some of the memories, reasons why I still am a big fan of the league. And I can’t wait for the new season to start so I can have more.