As Barangay Ginebra and Star renew their long-time rivalry in an elimination round game in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup this Sunday, FOX Sports got the chance to talk with basketball legend Chito Loyzaga on what it was like to be part of the the league’s most popular club during the 1980s.
You see, Loyzaga, son of the late Philippine basketball great Caloy, was the “Living Legend” Sonny Jaworski’s main defensive weapon at that time.
Loyzaga recalled the drama of the 1988 All-Filipino conference Finals when the pro league’s 2 most popular squads faced off in the championship series for the first time.
While today’s younger generation of PBA fans always associate the Ginebra-Star or in recent years, the Ginebra-San Mig, as Manila Clasico, he believes everything can be traced back to their fiery rivalry in 1988.
A bunch of role players
The 57-year-old Loyzaga, who now serves as NU’s athletic director and Blackwater’s team consultant, said man-for-man, Ginebra, then carrying the brand name Anejo Rhum, wasn’t even close to Purefoods.
Star, during its first 10 years or so, carried the brand name Purefoods in the PBA.
Anejo, in the late 1980s was backstopped by the PBA’s “Living Legend” Sonny Jaworski, Chito’s younger brother Joey Loyzaga, a deadly outside shooter in Dondon Ampalayo, along with a number of role players like Leo Isaac, now Blackwater’s head coach, Dante Gonzalgo, Romulo Mamaril and Harmon Codinera.
On the other hand, Purefoods was just in its 2nd conference in the pro league. But its young core composed of national team standouts like by Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, Jojo Lastimosa, Glen Capacio and Al Solis got a lot of help from veterans Ramon Fernandez, Padim Israel, Willie Generalao, Totoy Marquez and JB Yango.
The son of the late Philippine basketball great Caloy Loyzaga said what their team lacked in talent, they more than made up with their passion and heart every time they are on the floor.
“I guess for me, that was really a memorable one kasi maraming maliliit na contributions sa mga players namin na di mo akalain,” the 57-year-old Loyzaga shared to FOX Sports Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you won’t see that in the stats, what we call the intangibles. Whether it’s a defensive stop or a good tip in or a tap out, it could be something you won’t find in the stats sheet,” said Loyzaga, who earned the nickname “Dynamite” for his ability to explode from the 3-point land at any given time.
Both teams split the 1st 2 games of the Finals, before Anejo took the next 2 games, closing Game 4 with an epic 135-124 overtime win against a gutsy Purefoods side that drew 26 points from Patrimonio.
“During our time, we really owed it to the fans. And it wouldn’t matter whether we played Purefods, whether we played San Miguel or Alaska,” said Loyzaga.
“We’re out there to play for the fans because it’s something we always discussed as a team,” he added.
“And any win that we had during that time was really very emotional for all of us, and particularly that 1988 win because it was something that we really treasured as a team kasi di naman kami star-studded nun so we really savored that championship,” he said.
Advice to Ginebra today
Loyzaga said over the years that he has followed Ginebra’s games in the PBA, he has seen his former team transform into a strong, talented squad.
The only thing that puzzled him was the ball club’s failure to win a league championship since the Kings won their last PBA crown in the 2008 Fiesta Conference.
“What I see today with Ginebra is they have the manpower available, but I just can’t understand why perhaps they cannot play with that passion and that intensity that we used to have,” said Loyzaga.
“Again, I’ve seen some of the games and there shouldn’t be any reason because I see the same passion and intensity of the fans watching them play here,” he added.
“They still go crazy for them. And that should be an inspiration and motivation to perform well.”
Despite the 8-year PBA title drought, Loyzaga remains hopeful that Ginebra squad he helped to win 3 championships during his tenure, will be able to reach the top in the near future under new coach Tim Cone.
“I hope they come around and realize that the fans are hungry for them to win a championship,” said the 7-time PBA All-Defensive team member. — By Richard Dy