Moments of the Decade: Ginebra ends their championship drought

The final buzzer is nearing for 2019 and with that, the decade is coming to a close as well. Before the 2010s turns over into the 2020s, take a look back at the best basketball moments of the decade for the SLAM PH Team.


There is a crazy popular drink that has taken over the food culture in the past two years. It’s a well-known drink, one you’d easily notice since almost everyone is drinking this. It’s usually in a ridiculously large glass with black round pearls swimming at the bottom.

You guessed it. It’s milk tea.

Since gaining its popularity, there have been a bunch of milk tea stores all over the country. But there is a particular milk tea place that I’d regularly visit. The milk tea in this place is delicious and unique. However, there’s a catch. The milk tea in this place is a blockbuster. I usually have to wait nearly an hour just to get my order.

That doesn’t stop me though. Whenever I pass by this milk tea place, even with all the hours spent waiting, I always make sure to get a ridiculously large glass for myself. Maybe I’d gotten used to it. But waiting that long to drink their milk tea was already part of the fun. And finally, when I get that first sip after the long wait? Worth it.

There are just some things in life that are always worth the wait. No matter how long it takes, everything is pure satisfaction once it all falls into place.

That’s how I felt when Justin Brownlee hit the championship-clinching buzzer beater in the 2016 PBA Governor’s Cup Finals for Barangay Ginebra.

I’ve been a die-hard Ginebra fan since I was a kid. No surprise there since nearly half of the population in the country are Ginebra fans. While I never got to witness Ginebra’s heydays during the Big J era, watching the iconic Fast and the Furious duo of Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand really epitomized my childhood and sparked (pun intended) my love for the team. Could you blame me? They played an exciting brand of basketball. They got sold out arenas up on their feet. Every game they played exuded playoff intensity.

Watching Ginebra games was always a thrilling ride. But more than to the excitement, what really made me bleed “Never Say Die” was the fact that Ginebra was a champion team. No matter who the players are on the roster, they always delivered on championship expectations.

From 2004 to 2008, Ginebra has won four championships. And I always tuned in live to witness it all. I watched in awe how Eric Menk simply dominated every opponent and led the Kings to back-to-back championships in the 2004-2005 season. I cried in jubilation when the Gin Kings hoisted the Philippine Cup championship in 2007 against their arch-nemesis, the San Miguel Beermen. And I witnessed a true “hashtag NSD” spirit when a banged up Ginebra team won the 2008 Fiesta Conference title after starting the eliminations with five straight losses.

Then, came the drought.

After their 2008 title, Ginebra never got to taste a championship again. From being a feared and celebrated team, Ginebra quickly became the topic of mockery and even earned the kangkong monicker to to describe how their championship runs always ended up cold in the gutter. It certainly didn’t help that social media was booming at the time, giving haters and doubters more avenues to voice out their opinions on the team.

For me, it was eight years of continuous letdowns and heartbreak whenever Ginebra fell short on their championship aspirations each conference. They just couldn’t get their act straight. When the team got eliminated, I was always furious with whoever new coach was at that time and the same group of futile players. I was always annoyed when my friends would mess with me after yet another failed championship run.

As years passed by, I it became increasingly tiring cheering for the team.

Through it all though, I desperately clung to that Never Say Die mantra. I still faithfully hoped that I would be able to relive the championship that I experienced before.

That moment finally came, eight years later.

Game 6 of the Governor’s Cup Finals was an epic battle. After being down by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, Ginebra was able to claw their way back into the game. It took a lot of heroics from LA Tenorio and Justin Brownlee as well as some miraculous shots from Helterbrand and Scottie Thompson but Ginebra finally had the chance to clinch the series.

I’ll never forget how it happened.

With 5.5 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 88, Sol Mercado inbounded to ball to Brownlee. He isolated himself on the top of the key against Merlaco’s import Allen Durham. He got some room to operate and then, he rose for the shot.

Swish.

“Ohhhh. WOW. OH. WOW.”

Those were the only words that I could utter. It took a while for me to realize what actually happened. After that, I celebrated like crazy, jumping up and down our living room, celebrating like I did before.

It was a moment of pure joy that I waited to experience for eight years. Eight. Long. Years.

That one shot ended all my disappointments, frustrations, and misery that I had to endure as a Ginebra fan. After eight years of waiting in agony, Barangay Ginebra were the kings of Philippine Basketball once again. The words “Never Say Die” have once again proved unbreakable.

While Brownlee’s buzzer beater was certainly one of the most iconic moments in the past decade of basketball, what made it even more memorable was because it was eight years in the making. That long, tiring wait, for the fans, for me, made that first taste of a new championship that much sweeter. That shot was the perfect exclamation point to the seemingly never-ending misery of the team. It also paved way to a new championship era for Barangay Ginebra.


From the Archives: For Ginebra fans, young and old, ‘finally’

Moments of the Decade

UP returns to the Final Four

Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals

Kiefer Ravena’s 2017 SEA Games dagger

Isaac Go’s clutch three in the Season 80 Finals

Ryan Buenafe’s Three-Peat clinching shot

The Decision

Gilas breaks the Korean Curse