December 11, a Sunday, is the last regular playdate of the elimination round of the 2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup. The very final game of the elims pits Barangay Ginebra against defending champion Talk ‘N Text in the 6:30 p.m. second game at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
It will already be the second meeting in the elims between the two teams, a rematch of their coming November 6 meeting.
The date is special for the Ginebra franchise, but one that I’m sure that most fans aren’t familiar with.
25 years ago, Ginebra won its first PBA title in the Open Conference, the third tournament of the season. The team came from behind to beat Manila Beer, 130-120, in the fifth game of a best-of-seven title series to end what had been an 8-year title drought for the franchise.
Think Sonny Jaworski, Dondon Ampalayo, the Loyzaga brothers — Chito and Joey, Dante Gonzalgo, Leo Isaac. All demigods in Ginebra lore, they were part of that team.
Think two legendary imports playing on one team– Billy Ray Bates and Michael Hackett.
I reckon that the enduring popularity of Ginebra was cemented right then and there.
The team battled back from an 18-point deficit in that game to clinch the championship. Think “Never Say Die,” and it happened that night, magnified a thousand-fold because it resulted in the team’s first championship. It’s a spirit that the team carries with it to this day.
Now, think about this: Wouldn’t it be nice if Ginebra paid tribute to that title-winning team a quarter of a century ago? The current crop of Gin Kings, for example, could suit up in retro jerseys featuring the 1986 uniform design — it’ll be up to them if they want the shorts to be as skimpy as the ones worn back then. I suppose most fans would love it — especially the females.
Ginebra management can go one step further and host a reunion for the players of the franchise’s first champion team.
With more than a month to go, there should be ample time to invite the Big J, as well as Billy Ray Bates, who is in town. There should also be no problems inviting players who are still in the country, which include Ampalayo, Isaac, Chito Loyzaga, Gonzalgo, Romy Mamaril, Joey Marquez (yes, THAT Joey Marquez), Mukesh Advani, Rey Perez, and Terry Saldana.
If Ginebra officials really want to go all-out, they could even invite Francis Arnaiz, Joey Loyzaga, Hackett, and assistant coach Rino Salazar to fly back to the country.
I have no idea where the likes of Rolando Buhay and Ed Ducut are right now, but I am sure the PBA knows where to get in touch with them.
Perhaps the PBA could also consider selling replicas of those retro jerseys, and donate a portion or all of the proceeds for a cause — like for Billy Mamaril’s wife, Christine, who’s still in a coma. I know I would buy a jersey, or even two.
Filipinos love to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. So why not make an occasion of the silver anniversary of Ginebra’s first title?
That would make for an early Christmas gift for the millions of members of Barangay Ginebra.
Fidel Mangonon III is the head of statistics for the Philippine Basketball Association. His column, The PBAologist, appears exclusively on InterAKTV. For more discussion on the ins and outs of the league, follow Fidel on Twitter.