Moments after Ateneo won their third consecutive championship, Thirdy Ravena climbed up onto the chairs of the Ateneo bench, faced the sea of blue, opened his arms, and let out a massive roar. Amidst the hoard of celebrating Ateneo players and coaches, Thirdy stole everyone’s eyes for a few seconds.
Throughout most of his high school career and spewing into his early college life, the criticism against the younger Ravena surrounded this type of star complex. He was looked at as one who chased the spotlight, searching for the clout that his family name alone garnered enough of. Meanwhile, his older brother won the people’s adoration through his on-court talent.
As Thirdy went from former Juniors MVP to a fringe rotation player as a rookie in the Seniors level, the criticism reached its peak. He was a bust, just a supreme athlete but had no basketball IQ, and would never live up to Kiefer or his dad, Bong.
Then due to academic reasons, he was forced to sit out a season. This was one year prior to Ateneo’s massive retrenchment of talent due to academics, which forced out players pegged to lead the team, like Arvin Tolentino and CJ Perez.
Thirdy was under the spotlight, alright. For all the wrong reasons.
Despite Ateneo’s success throughout the last four seasons, in a lot of ways, Thirdy was still the same person critics loved to pick apart: the face of a high profile team who garnered multiple endorsement deals, and whose pregame outfits and oncourt kicks demanded media attention.
But the version of Thirdy that returned in Season 79 was a different beast. He accepted his shortcomings, his role as a piece of a starless system, and rarely gave himself any credit for the team’s success. His final podium quote showed exactly that.
“…[our] strength doesn’t lie with one person, with one player, or one coach, but it lies on all of us… Kaya kami malakas, kaya gumanagana yung system is that we do what we do not for ourselves but for our teammates and the guy beside us on the bench. Ibang klaseng feeling to, to share the championship with everyone.”Thirdy Ravena
By incorporating himself as a indifferentiable member of a well-oiled machine, Thirdy Ravena managed to garner both the team and individual accolades that will have him remembered fondly by UAAP history books.
Count it down. He had four UAAP Finals appearances, won three UAAP Championships, finished with two Mythical Five selections and is the first three-time Finals MVP in UAAP Men’s Basketball history
His individual numbers don’t jump off the page; He’s never averaged more than 13 points or 8 rebounds per game in a single season. That also explains why he’s never come any closer to the season MVP award than the distant second to Ben Mbala in Season 80, or why he’s missed the Mythical Five team in each of the last two seasons.
But that last bullet above — first three-time Finals MVP in history — is what cements him as one of the greatest to ever don the Blue and White, and even to play in the UAAP period. No one, not Mbala, not anyone on the five-peat Blue Eagles, or any other Ravena, has ever won THREE Finals MVPs. Moreover, on his dominant yet starless team, Thirdy unquestionably deserved every single Finals MVP trophy he hoisted up.
In the seven Finals games of Ateneo’s three-year streak, he had outclassed the competition, averaging 22.4 points per game, which is double of his career Elimination Rounds average. Because in the UAAP Finals, where the spotlight is at its brightest, Thirdy Ravena is in his element. He was born to shine under those lights.
So as he stood on those chairs, pulling all eyes and camera lenses his way, not a single critic could spit out the words they once uttered in the same way. Yes, Thirdy was still the center of attention, and may be as perfect for the showbiz world as he is for the basketball court, but he is also an absolute baller and downright winner. He deserved that moment to collect all the love from the Ateneo community, and the praise from every single basketball fan, even those, like me, who once doubted him.
Thirdy will probably never be looked at as the greatest UAAP player of all-time, and perhaps his brother will still garner more love for that distinction. But he will be remembered as one of the best turnaround stories, one of the best two-way players, one of the best highlight creators, and maybe the greatest Finals performer in the history of UAAP Men’s Basketball.
Give him all the clout in the world.