This feature is part of 7 Days of Jaworski, InterAKTV’s special tribute to the Living Legend, whose jersey will be retired on Sunday, July 8.
I have always considered myself lucky.
There aren’t a lot of kids born and raised in the ’90s who have had at least a glimpse of Philippine basketball greatness. I am one of the few kids who’ve seen and enjoyed the great Robert Jaworski play on the hard court.
Having been raised by a basketball-crazy family, I’ve always considered myself as a third-generation Ginebra fan. At a young age, I was exposed to live basketball games in the old ULTRA, now the PhilSports Arena, and of course the Big Dome, the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
My earliest memories of watching live PBA was way back in 1994, when I was four years old.
Even back then, I could see how the rest of my family seemed to go crazy every time Ginebra takes the floor. From my grandparents to my uncles and aunts, my parents to my cousins, everyone seems to find common ground at live basketball games, where screaming “Gi-ne-bra! Gi-ne-bra!” and “Ja-wor-ski! Ja-wor-ski” in live games.
When I started watching as a child, Jawo was mostly relegated to the sidelines coaching the team, checking in for cameo appearances from time to time. But even at that age, I understood the mystique; the guy was bigger than the points he scored, the rebounds he grabbed, the assists he dished off.
Here was a guy in his late 40s who would even consider banging bodies with younger, faster, and bigger players, when he had the option to just coach and make a ton of money. He could have just hanged up his sneakers and enjoyed the fruits of his labor, but he kept including himself in the lineup for Ginebra, conference after conference.
That’s what the legend is all about. It was more than the points scored, more than the money, more than the wins, more than the trophies. It was always about the passion and the love for the game that Sonny Jaworski brought on the table. The never say die spirit, the desire to win and entertain the fans that he instilled in the players that he coached, that was the Sonny Jaworski that I witnessed.
The 1997 Commissioner’s Cup victory of Gordon’s Gin would always be the most memorable moment for me as a Ginebra fan during the Jaworski era. Aside from being the only Jaworski title I’ve ever witnessed, it was redemption on Ginebra’s part after finishing as bridesmaids in the previous two conferences to Alaska (1996 Governors’ Cup) and Purefoods (1997 All-Filipino Conference).
I was only a kid then, but the look on the faces of Ginebra fans after their favorite team won the championship was priceless. The celebration, the tears on the eyes, and the smiles that filled the tens of thousands of Ginebra fans in the building was a moment to remember.
That was also probably the only time that I’ve heard Robert Jaworski publicly address the crowd in the coliseum. Up to now, it still brings a smile to my face every time I watch the Jaworski ad on television with that clip. It brings back good memories.
While I may not have been able to experience the times wherein Robert Jaworski was taking names as a player back in the ’80s, the small memories that I have from him while he steered the Ginebra club in the ’90s will always have an impact on me. Every time I look back and ponder why I’m trying to pursue a career in sports writing, the run of the famed Gordon’s Gin Boars in 1997 would answer that.
With the influx of great guards in today’s generation, it’s easy to say that Robert Jaworski was just a “myth” created by his followers back in his heyday. Some would argue that most of the people making headlines in Philippine basketball today are better players than Jaworski. And while that’s certainly arguable, there’s just something that makes Robert “Sonny” Jaworski a cut above the rest.
It was the identity that he set, not only for the team but for the league and for the sport. It was all about the followers that he created, the tales that he starred in, the memories he left behind. It was all about the never say die spirit which still lives on in Ginebra fans today and will carry on to the next generation and the next.
And that is what makes him a legend, not just for fans who’ve been there from his days as a player for Toyota, but also to a 22-year-old third generation Ginebra fan like me.
Christian Angelo Jacinto is a fourth-year AB Journalism student at Colegio de San Juan de Letran.