One of the best moments in Philippine sports is seeing Barangay Ginebra climb back from a huge deficit against a tough opponent.
The crowd usually starts getting into it and getting them back in the game by shouting “GI-NE-BRA! GI-NE-BRA! GI-NE-BRA!” from the top of their lungs. With seemingly all hope gone, the team then comes back and wins the game.
That’s the “Never Say Die” spirit in full effect. It’s the mantra that has long been cultivated by generations of Barangay Ginebra greats, an attitude that the franchise’s players have lived by for decades, and a pop culture phenomenon that has taken Philippine basketball by storm. Even today, that spirit still lives on.
Today, we bring you 5 reasons why the current Ginebra team’s NSD spirit is still intact.
5. Scottie Thompson
A college basketball legend, Scottie Thompson played for the Univerisity of Perpetual Help of the NCAA. In his stint with the Atlas, he managed to win Most Improved Player of the year (2012) and Most Valuable Player of the year (2014) awards – wherein during the latter season, he posted jaw-dropping averages of 26.5 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game. He was also named to the NCAA Philippines Mythical Team three times (2012, 2014, 2015).
When Ginebra took the spitfire guard with the fifth overall pick back in 2015, fans and the entire league knew what they were getting with Scottie: a player that plays with a fearless attitude.
The guard still lives by the ‘never say die’ attitude ingrained into his team’s culture. Even if he is one of the smallest players on the court, Scottie has this enigma where you’ll feel that he has a chance to get every rebound and every loose ball. So far in his career, he is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game; this included his impressive sophomore year, where he pulled down 8.0 rebounds per game.
He won’t wow anyone with flashy plays, but he certainly has a tight grip among the hearts of Ginebra fans as he exemplifies what the team stands for. Night in and night out, Thompson comes out with the same energy and passion that the fans have embraced.
4. 2016 and 2017 Governor’s cup championships
Often ridiculed online by netizens, the Barangay Ginebra franchise suffered an eight-year championship drought. It wasn’t uncommon to see the word “kangkong” when describing Ginebra as they failed to produce playoff wins during that span.
But in the 2016 Governor’s cup playoffs, they did the unthinkable. They took care of business and dispatched Alaska in the quarterfinals, then they overcame the odds and took down sister team San Miguel in the semifinals (even though the Beermen were heavily-favored going into the series). And lastly they won their first championship in eight years after Justin Brownlee won them the title with a late game-winner over the Meralco Bolts.
A year later the team did it again, and this time it was a tougher task to handle. They breezed through a weaker San Miguel team in the quarterfinals to book their tickets to the semi-finals against a formidable TNT team. There, Ginebra showed that they were not to be messed with as they convincingly won the series, 3-1, against a revamped, top-seeded Meralco.
These two championships rekindled a dying flame for the players and the fans. Overcoming the obstacles facing the team, Ginebra dug deep and managed to come out on top to show the world that the never say die spirit still resides within the culture of the franchise – even when it seemed like the entire nation was betting against them each series.
3. Their rich history
One of the league’s old guards, the Barangay Ginebra franchise has been around for decades now dating back to the late 70’s.
Even when the team was in their infamous eight-year slump, one couldn’t deny the fact that they are one of the most decorated franchises in the history of Philippine basketball. Having total of ten championships, three MVPs, twelve players named to the 40 greatest PBA players of all time and more, Ginebra has produced excellence every decade.
Many believe that the never say die attitude started back in October 22, 1985 in a game against Northern Cement. Robert Jaworski received an elbow from Jeff Moore in the second quarter and was rushed into the nearest emergency room to get stitches. During the third quarter, Jaworski came back to the bench when the team was down fifteen. When he entered the game and led the team to victory, the frenzy of what happened was something yet to be matched and has since then lived in the hearts of basketball fans around the country.
No matter what Ginebra goes through, they will always be the team of the people, they will always have the rich history that made them the most popular team in the Philippines, and they will always have the never say die spirit – and nothing can take that away from them.
2. Mark Caguioa
Back in the 2001 draft, Ginebra seleced Mark Caguioa, a virtual unknown in the Philippine basketball scene. It didn’t take long for the electric guard to show the talent that made him a top-three pick. Finishing the season averaging 13.8 ppg and 4.9 rpg while shooting a remarkable 42% from beyond the arc, Mark was given the moniker “The Spark” as he gave instant offense for the squad back then.
Mark was an instant fan favorite as he had this bad boy aura looming over him. And like the greats before him, he had the ‘never say die’ spirit engraved into his soul. The talent, skill, and swagger surrounding Caguioa endeared him to the Ginebra faithfuls, as he and partner JJ Helterbrand ushered in the new age of Ginebra basketball.
Even though he’s at the tail end of his career, Mark is still out there serving as an inspiritation for the young guns of Ginebra and he’s still without a doubt one of the most popular players in the nation. In the rare times he checks in the game, you can hear the standing ovation as the fans show their appreciation for the player that kept ‘never say die’ alive.
In his game with father time, Mark is trailing by a lot. With only a couple of years left in the tank, the inevitable retirement is near. But as a fan, you have to appreciate what Caguioa has brought to Philippine basketball.
His resume is nothing short of spectacular; he’s a six-time champion, a former PBA Most Valuable Player awardee (2012), a 12-time PBA All-Star and is one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players.
He’s truly one of the best to lace up a pair.
1. The fans
Without a doubt the most popular team in the Philippines, Barangay Ginebra has always drawn the largest crowds in the league history.
With thousands of fans in attendance and thousands more watching from their homes, you could feel the energy brought by the fans when Ginebra is playing. The team’s “GI-NE-BRA! GI-NE-BRA! GI-NE-BRA!” chant has been around for more than 30 years and yet every time the fans shout it, one can’t help but feel goosebumps coursing though their body.
The ‘never say die’ spirit might not have lived this long if it was started by a different team. But with Ginebra it was the perfect pairing: the fans turned this simple phrase into a lifestyle, a pop culture, and more importantly, a piece of history. They simply made it work by showing up every game and rallying behind their team even when the odds were stacked against their favor.
Countless attendance records broken by Ginebra faithfuls symbolize their support for the team and how they themselves live by the ‘never say die mantra’. In Game 6 of the 2017 Governor’s Cup finals, they even smashed the record for the biggest crowd in a PBA game with a 53,642 fan turnout.
You can change the players, you can get rid of the coaching staff, and you can find new management, but you can never kill the spirit of the biggest fan base in Philippine history. The ‘never say die’ attitude will live forever just because of the franchise’s fans.
(By Grant Funtila)