Despite being talked about as one of the PBA’s premier big men, Nelson Asaytono’s name, for some reason, does not appear in the list of the 40 Greatest PBA Players.
The snub left fans, players, and coaches alike perplexed as to why this was the case, and netizens all over social media have expressed their vitriol over various fan pages and discussion boards.
“Hindi ko rin maintindihan kung bakit wala siya sa PBA’s Greatest Players. Million dollar question yan eh sa totoo lang,” Jerry Codinera told FOX Sports PH in a telephone interview.
Drafted second overall in the 1989 PBA Draft by Purefoods, the former University of Manila cager started off his career playing alongside PBA greats such as Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Dindo Pumaren, and Alvin Patrimonio, where he won his first two titles.
Despite coming off the bench early on, “The Bull” would hold down his own and would be the linchpin for the Purefoods championship teams in the late 80’s.
“Normally people would go to the gym to get stronger, pero si Nelson hindi na niya kailangan magbuhat sa gym. May dahilan kung bakit ‘The Bull’ yung nickname niya,” said Kenneth Duremdes, who played with Asaytono during his time with Swift/Sunkist.
After acting as an understudy behind his legendary teammates, everything changed when he was traded to the Guiao-mentored Swift Mighty Meaties in 1992. There, he racked up majority of his accolades, including multiple mythical team selections, all-star nods, and four more PBA titles.
“Sa lahat ng power forwards na nakalaro ko, top 3 para sa akin ‘yang si Nelson (along with Bong Hawkins and Alvin Patrimonio). Para maintindihan ng mga millenial kung paano siya maglaro, isipin niyo na lang parang ala-LeBron James yan pag nagdrdrive sa loob, kasi lahat hirap makapigil diyan,” explained Codinera on Asaytono’s play style.
Asaytono brought his wares to a Ron Jacobs-mentored squad in San Miguel, where he became their main option in a team mired by injuries to its key players. He rounded out his career playing for Pop Cola and Red Bull after his stint with San Miguel.
Overall, he played in the league for 17 years and is the fifth leading scorer in league history (12,268), behind only Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guibaden, Alvin Patrimonio, and Atoy Co. He also ended up fourth all-time in free throws made (2,999), and 11th all time in rebounds (4,469) – all which are testaments to his longevity and all-around game.
However, looking into all of his accomplishments, one piece of hardware was missing for his trophy case – an MVP award, despite always being in the mix in his prime.
“Madami din kasi siyang nakasabay na maganda ‘yung nilaro eh kaya na-timing lang na hindi siya nakakuha ni-isa. Actually, madami beses yan na-nominate sa pagka-MVP,” added Codinera.
But with everything that he has done in his time with the PBA, his inclusion in the league’s pantheon is long overdue even without an MVP, and his contemporaries definitely agree.
“I definitely think that he deserves to be part of the PBA’s Greatest – his overall impact sa game, accomplishments and tagal niya sa liga, and most of all, he’s a great teammate and person,” said Duremdes.
“Sana man lang sa next 10 na masasali, kasama na siya doon. He definitely deserves it,” added Codinera.