Thirdy Ravena’s fearlessness shines in his move to Japan

If Helen has a face that launched a thousand ships, Thirdy Ravena has hair that launched a thousand takes.

While it feels like it’s become par for the course, Thirdy sporting pink hair was still met with plenty of attention from basketball fans. It was interesting at best and polarizing at worst. But one thing we’re sure of is it triggered a reaction. Typical, for Thirdy.

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Anything Thirdy’s done his whole career has created a subsequent response from fans.

Early on during his career, it was filled with plenty of negativity. Comparisons to his brother, Kiefer, and his father, Bong, fueled the commentary surrounding Thirdy. People believed he possessed the athleticism of his dad but not the basketball genius of his older sibling. Many concluded he was a disappointment, especially after his rookie year in the UAAP Seniors Division. Being forced to sit-out a year due to failure to reach the QPI requirement in Ateneo did not do his reputation any favors.

That was always the bar for Thirdy. He needed to match, or even exceed, the results of the journey his other family members went through. Because of the immense pressure, fashion, art, and creativity, became his escape. Little did we know, this would also serve as the bridge for him to realize his true potential.

Critics thought of his stints as a DJ and his Instagram posts were mere distractions. But instead of allowing what others say to control his decisions, he stuck to his guns and simply did what he believed was good for him. It was bold. Risky, even. But that first step of going against the flow jumpstarted his dramatic rise.

His fearlessness translated back on the basketball court and his growth followed suit. From being stuck on the bench as a rookie, he transformed into a three-time Finals MVP, and built a strong argument to be the greatest Ateneo Blue Eagle of all time. The comparisons to his dad and brother were still there, but this time, they were phrased in a more positive light.

The athleticism of his dad was starting to fuse itself with the intelligence of his brother. They often say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But Thirdy showed us how the whole can be different from the sum of its parts. He wasn’t necessarily better than Kiefer or Bong. But he was certainly a unique beast altogether.

He was a tornado that knew how to dissect its prey. Every burst to the rim or pass to a teammate was simultaneously spontaneous, calculated, and undeniably exciting. He was properly dubbed as the King of Highlights, but at the same time, he was called the King Eagle. He was the best at producing flash AND substance. It’s easy to say that someone does that, but Thirdy walked the talk. To be able to mix these seemingly contrasting qualities is what made him so special.

Thirdy is bold. Others will describe his actions as risky, even. But he has always been fearless, and that quality was in full display as he made the leap from the +63 to the +81.

Last June 25, 2020, Thirdy announced that he’d be playing for the San-en NeoPhoenix for the upcoming B.League season. It was met with plenty of reactions, as what is expected any time Thirdy makes a move. But this isn’t all-flash. It’s a showcase of his newfound intelligence blended with his known preference for unique things.

Going abroad isn’t anything new for Filipino basketball players. But heading to a country like Japan, a country many consider to be an inferior basketball power compared to the Philippines, is practically unheard of. Why the jump to Japan then, what’s there to gain?

While currently ranked lower than the Philippines in FIBA rankings (PH at 31 vs. JPN at 40), the Japanese are a rising Asian superpower. This was in full display when they beat the Australian National Team during the 2018 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. Something was happening in the Land of the Rising Sun, and their professional basketball league recognized it. As a result, they started to beef up their program by welcoming in Asian Imports.

Thirdy joins the B.League as the first Asian Import of the league. While this is a value add for the side of the Japanese, Thirdy also has a lot to gain by making this move. Competition may be perceived as inferior versus the PBA, but the exposure to an international system, and new culture, will be huge for Thirdy’s hopes of building a career overseas.

It’s a bold move. Risky, even, to bet on a league that’s just starting to grow to the levels of elite Asian competition. You can understand why people would feel this way. We’ve gotten used to Filipino players trying their luck in the US or Europe. Japan? It’s never even crossed the minds of Filipino basketball fans or players, until just recently.

If there was a player who would blaze a new trail, it’s Thirdy. He welcomes all of your takes. That isn’t going to stop him from doing what he believes is best for him. While he may be changing his country of work, his core as a person isn’t going to change any time soon. Interesting at best. Polarizing at worst. He will always trigger a reaction. Typical Thirdy. He’s one of a kind, for better or for worse.