LA Tenorio’s ‘Iron Man’ legacy could become untouchable

On Sunday evening, LA Tenorio is expected to suit up for Barangay Ginebra — just like what he has done time and time again since entering the league in 2006. To be precise, the former Ateneo Blue Eagle has suited up in the country’s top basketball league 596 times. Except this time, it will be a hallmark moment unlike any other.

Those present could be witness to what may be the next untouchable PBA record.

Tenorio is set to eclipse Purefoods great Alvin Patrimonio’s record on the PBA’s biggest fixture, the Manila Clasico, on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. It took 15 years for a player to get past Patrimonio’s record, and it could be much longer before anyone else comes close to sniffing Tenorio’s once his streak is done.

Tenorio officially tied the record of the Purefoods big man for the most number of consecutive games played in the league at 596 in a victory against the Phoenix Fuel Masters last Sunday. The number, 596, is even more absurd when you factor in that the tally started when he played his first game as the fourth pick of the 2006 Rookie Draft.

As if fate couldn’t be even more dramatic, Tenorio is expected to surpass the record right in front of Patrimonio himself, who is now the manager of the very team he will face on Sunday.

While ‘untouchable’ might be a bold claim, there are some records that will most likely stand the test of time. In the PBA, one of the more famous records that probably won’t be broken anytime soon is Robert Jaworski’s distinction of being the league’s oldest ever player at 54-years of age.

It is difficult to predict luck with health when it comes to any sport, but age is in the former Gilas standout’s side. At only 34 years old, and with a fair amount of basketball ahead of him, Tenorio could build that next seemingly unreachable number.

It took 12 years for Patrimonio to reach 596 games played consecutively, but it came at the tail end of his glittering career. The streak’s end coincided with the Purefoods icon’s decision to finally hang up his jersey at 38 years old in 2004.

For Tenorio, time is on his side to make the next Iron Man record unassailable.

Should luck in terms of personal health and factors outside the basketball court cooperate, the Gineral has all the reason to look forward to more time on the hardcourt. After all, being an Iron Man in basketball isn’t just about being healthy, it is about being good enough to play.

What makes Tenorio’s achievement even more special is that he has accumulated the 596 games while continually being one of the league’s top guards. In his 13th season, He is averaging 11.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds through 33.6 minutes per game. Tenorio is also set for another All-Star appearance this year.

Apart from collecting a championship as recent as 2018, the Ginebra guard also has a couple of individual accolades to his name in the past few years. In 2017 he was awarded with the PBA Order of Merit, which is given to the cager with the most Player of the Week citations in a season, and the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals MVP plum.

In fact, Tenorio was named best player of the game on the day he matched Patrimonio’s record with a 23-point, eight rebound, and five assist outing. So it is safe to say that the 13-year veteran still has a lot more in the tank as a baller.

“Hindi ko rin na-expect na aabot ako sa ganito,” Tenorio said in the post-game interview after matching Patrimonio’s record. “Sino ba naman makakaalam na makakarating ako sa ganito?”

With no signs of slowing down, who knows at what number of consecutive games played Tenorio will end up with?

Claiming the Iron Man crown is unlikely to change Tenorio’s approach to the game, which means he will keep on doing what he has done to go way beyond 596. When you ask the Ginebra coaches about his streak so far, they will tell you that they don’t even remember Tenorio ever missing a practice.

That claim, though admittedly difficult to verify, speaks volumes of the work ethic and mentality of the three-time PBA Finals MVP. While having such a lengthy active streak is nice, there is little doubt that it is not what is most important to Tenorio.

In fact, he says that the record he is concerned about on Sunday is Ginebra’s win-loss slate.

“More than that, kailangan namin paghandaan ang Magnolia,” Tenorio said. “Malaki ‘yung utang sa amin ng Magnolia because of last conference.”

“Lampasan ‘yung consecutive games played, nandyan lang ‘yan. Hopefully magdire-diretso pa,” Tenorio added. “More than that it’s really the victory and we really have to play really hard the next game to get the win again.”

With an almost singular mindset to compete and win games, it could be that drive that will keep Tenorio on the court in the foreseeable future.