When bemoaning the lack of quality centers in the PBA today, it’s important to remember that it’s always been the case in the premier basketball league of a country where men stand at an average of 5-foot-4. In fact, back in the ’80s, the league instituted a rule forbidding the four best centers in that era — Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Yoyoy Villamin, and Manny Victorino — from playing on the same team, because it would give that squad too much of a competitive advantage.
Before we go on to this new installment of The List, here are some honorable mentions.
“The Boss” seems like the last of a dying breed, a true center who can score with his back to the basket. He has been the PBA’s best center over the course of the past three seasons, having been named to man the slot for the Mythical Five for 2009-10 and 2010-11.
His former coach Norman Black was asked to describe how Peek was able to hold his own against taller opponents in the PBA. “He’s 6-foot-3 tall,” said Black, “but he’s also 6-foot-3 wide.” Peek has been quietly solid for most of his 14 seasons in the league, and not even a shooting incident could keep the Man Mountain down.
When Limpot came into the league as a rookie, the legendary Ramon Fernandez predicted that the former La Salle standout would take over the league in three years. That didn’t quite happen — with all his talent, we still don’t know why — and his career could be considered a mild disappointment considering all his potential.
“The Robocop” made a living trying to bottle up the league’s dominant big men during the late ’80s and early ’90s — a list that included legends such as Benjie Paras and Jerry Codiñera. It’s still curious how a tough, rugged enforcer such as him has reared two scoring swingmen who are currently budding stars in the college scene — Jeric and Jeron Teng.
When the PBA opened its gates in 1975, Manny Paner was already a star for a long time. He was the center in the league’s first Mythical Team, and even though his PBA career was a short one, he definitely made an impact; in 1978, he left Royal Tru-Orange to sign with Presto what was then the league’s biggest contract that paid him a whopping P8,000 a month.
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