On the eve of the much-anticipated Star-Barangay Ginebra collision, PBA legend Alvin Patrimonio looked back at his illustrious basketball career and the many hardcourt battles he had with the league’s most popular squad.
Bruises, body aches and boos were a common sight during and after every game against Ginebra.
Ginebra was undoubtedly the PBA’s top crowd drawer, a team known for its rugged plays when the Gins were still under playing coach Sonny Jaworski.
Patrimonio, who for 17 years served as the face of the Purefoods franchise, remembered during his first few years as a pro, how Ginebra’s defensive whiz Chito Loyzaga would hound him every time the Hotdogs and the Gins face off at the Ultra (now Philsports Arena).
“Si Chito talaga, body body yung ginagawa niya, kasi ang gusto niya lang, maalis ako sa comfort zone ko which is the low post,” recalled Patrimonio, 1 of only 2 PBA players to win the Most Valuable Player award 4 times.
“Mas gusto niya tumira ako sa perimeter kesa ma-power ko inside.”
Patrimonio was a robust young power forward, who burst into the PBA scene in the 1988 All-Filipino conference, shortly after ending his illustrious amateur career with Swift in the Philippine Amateur Basketball League.
In his initial conference as a rookie, the former Mapua “King” Cardinal helped Purefoods reach the Finals, where the Hotdogs clashed with Jaworski’s team, then known as Anejo Rhum 65.
“Nakita ko naman na malakas ang (Purefoods) team kasi nandun pa yung favorite player ko si Mon (Fernandez), eh gusto ko mag-Finals uli kasi wala namang import and iyun ang pinaka-prestigious conference,” shared Patrimonio, nicknamed “Captain Lionheart.”
“Kaya pagpasok ko sa Purefoods, iyun talaga ang goal, to be in the Finals again though nagkaroon lang ng mga distractions, medyo malaking distractions sa team, kaya medyo nawala yung direction ng team kasi nakita natin affected talaga yung team,” he added.
Purefoods bowed to the more determined and more experience Anejo side, 3-2 in the Finals.
Though he fell short in his championship goal, the Finals defeat strengthened Patrimonio’s resolve, eventually resulting to 4 PBA titles for Purefoods in the 1990 Third Conference, 1991 All-Filipino, 1993 All-Filipino (when the team carried the name Coney Island) and 1994 Commissioner’s Cup.
He also won 3 MVP trophies in 1991, 1993 and 1994 with a 4th one, coming in 3 years later.
The 1997 All-Filipino Cup provided Patrimonio an opportunity to exorcise the ghost of the 1988 Finals debacle against Jaworski and Co.
Ginebra carried the name Gordon’s Gin that season with the team built around the solid core of Marlou Aquino, Bal David and Noli Locsin.
By then, Patrimonio was already the PBA’s main superstar with his front court partner Jerry Codinera the only other holdover from the 1988 team.
But backstopping the Purefoods frontline duo were Bong Ravena, Dindo Pumaren and a host of role players, determined to rule the the league’s most prestigious conference under rookie coach Eric Altamirano.
“Memorable for me yung 1997 na All-Filipino Finals. We were up, 3-1 pero nanalo sila nung 5th game,” he said.
“But we needed to close the series, so yung last game ko, naka-40 points ako. Talagang memorable for me yun,” added Patrimonio, a member of the 25 greatest players in the pro league.
Aside from flaunting his full offensive might against Gordon’s towering frontline, the 6-foot-3 Patrimonio also hauled down 11 rebounds and issued 4 assists in a scintillating 45-minute effort to clinch the All-Filipino crown.
The rivalry lives on
Patrimonio, who turns 50 this November, currently serves as Star’s team manager.
Though he has been away from the game for the last 12 years, he believes the rivalry between Ginebra and the Purefoods franchise will live on, so long as there are key matchups to watch every time they clash.
“Of course sa mga players, si James (Yap) sa Star at sa kabila si (Mark) Caguioa, kapag nandiyan pa rin yung dalawa, may rivalry pa rin,” he said.
“But now, si Greg Slaughter and (Marc) Pingris naman and I think as long as may mga players sa kabila na nagdo-dominate at mina-match up, I think hindi matitigil yung Manila Clasico,” added Patrimonio.
A sub-plot in the 2016 version of the Manila Clasico is coach Tim Cone’s transfer from Star to Ginebra this season.
So far, both teams split their head-to-head match during the Philippine Cup.
Star prevailed, 86-78, against Ginebra on October 25 during the elimination round.
But Cone and the Kings had the last laugh when they scored a 92-89 overtime win against the Hotshots on Christmas Day to advance to the 2nd phase of the quarterfinals. — By Richard Dy