The List: Top Centers in PBA History

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The List: Top Centers in PBA History

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Fri May 18, 2012 10:09 am

The List: Top Centers in PBA History

Reynaldo Belen, with Jaemark Tordecilla and Jay P. Mercado, InterAKTV · Thursday, May 10, 2012 · 4:53 am

Courtesy of Rafe Bartholomew

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

Before we go on to this new installment of The List, here are some honorable mentions.

Sonny Thoss

“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.

Ali Peek

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.

Jun Limpot

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.

Alvin Teng

“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.

Manny Paner

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

10. Marlou Aquino/Dennis Espino

The two centers have had their careers intertwined, even before they
tag-teamed at Sta. Lucia. Espino was the PBA’s No. 1 overall choice in
1995; Aquino was the top pick in 1996.

The Skyscraper had an immediate impact with Ginebra — he led the
previously moribund team to a finals appearance in 1996 and the
Commissioner’s Cup title in 1997 — while Espino had to be content to
play second fiddle to Jun Limpot.

Their roles would change, however, in their latter years. When Aquino
was traded to Sta. Lucia in exchange for Limpot, Espino took the
leadership role and became the Realtors’ main man.

When coach Boyet Fernandez took over the team in 2007, he decided
that playing the twin towers together made the team too slow. He
installed Espino as the starting center, with Marlou as the backup, and
the former UST Growling Tiger responded by winning Most Valuable Player
honors in the 2008 Philippine Cup finals.

9. Manny Victorino

When people look back at the PBA’s early years, some tend to forget
about the awesome Great Taste teams of the early ’80s, focusing mainly
on Crispa and Toyota. Which is why people forget just how good Manny
Victorino was.

A legit big man who could run like a guard, Victorino posed a lot of
trouble for Great Taste’s opponents, and allowed the team to compete
with the league’s powerhouse squads. Victorino ended up playing 15
seasons in the league, also suiting up for Shell, 7-Up, Ginebra, and

8. Yoyoy Villamin

He stood just 6-foot-2, but he battled against bigger men everyday
using his strength and athleticism, even drawing comparisons to imports;
if Billy Ray Bates was the Black Superman, then Villamin was the
Bicolano Superman. After joining Crispa in 1981, he became Alaska’s
first franchise cornerstone, and ended up playing an astounding 17
seasons in the PBA, also suiting up for Manila Beer, Swift, Pepsi, and
San Miguel — before playing a couple of seasons for the Iloilo Volts in
the Metropolitan Basketball Association!

7. Eric Menk

PBA/Nuki Sabio

Eric Menk made a splash right in his very first tournament in the
PBA, winning Best Player of the Conference honors while leading Tanduay
to the All-Filipino Conference finals. He rocketed superstardom after
joining Barangay Ginebra, winning the franchise’s first Most Valuable
Player award in 2004-05. He has been slowed down by injuries over the
past few years, but he has still shown the ability to be a key
contributor to his squad.

6. Asi Taulava

AKTV/Paul Ryan Tan

People have been arguing about Menk and Taulava since the two were
still in the PBL, but the Fil-Tongan center takes the higher spot
because of longevity. For some 12 seasons, Taulava was the most dominant
player in the shaded lane at both ends of the court in the PBA — which
is why he was always the logical choice to start at center whenever the
PBA formed national teams. Curiously, he won only one title in his PBA
career, the 2003 All-Filipino Conference, the same season he was named

5. Jerry Codiñera

Even today, people fondly remember Codiñera’s legendary frontcourt
partnership with Alvin Patrimonio at Purefoods. But while The Captain
got most of the individual accolades, The Defense Minister was every bit
as important to the franchise. His long, 17-year career began with him
battling PBA pioneers such as Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, and
ended with him duking it out in the paint against invading foreign-born
Filipinos like Taulava and Menk. In the end, he finished third all-time
in rebounding in the league and fourth in blocked shots, and he still
holds the single game blocks record with 11.

4. Danny Ildefonso

InterAKTV/Markku Seguerra

As his career winds down, people will remember Danny Ildefonso as the
last great Filipino homegrown center. These days, 6-foot-5 basketball
players who possess the same kind of talent don’t want to go down into
the block and man the slot anymore; case in point, Kerby Raymundo, who
came into the PBA just two years after Ildefonso and possessed many of
the same skills, but shied away from playing the center spot for most of
his career.

Of course, people would also remember Danny I as the anchor of the
shortlived San Miguel Beer dynasty in the early 2000s, which allowed him
to win back-to-back MVPs while carrying the torch for homegrown big men
in light of the Fil-Am invasion.

Centers like Danny Ildefonso didn’t come along all that often in the
PBA’s earlier years. Now, we’ll probably never see anyone like him again
— which is why it’s always a treat to see Danny I still ticking after
all these years, after all those injuries.

3. Abet Guidaben

Guidaben was the very definition of a late bloomer. Early in his
career with the Crispa Redmanizers, he was a gangly stiff who was the
butt of many fans’ jokes.

But he showed a big improvement in 1982, suddenly becoming a force in
the PBA. He won the first of two Most Valuable Player awards the next
year, before going on to become the franchise center of a rejuvenated
San Miguel team in the mid-’80s. He won his second MVP award with the
Beermen in 1987.

He wrapped us the league’s second all-time leading scorer and
rebounder, and he was tops in games played. It may have come late, but
boy did Guidaben bloom.

2. Benjie Paras

When Paras entered the PBA as a 20-year-old rookie in 1989, the
league had never seen anyone quite like him. He would block a shot in
mid-air, grab the rebound, dribble the ball up the court, and finish
with a rim-rattling dunk. He wasn’t a mere player; he was a force of

He was rewarded by making history as the only rookie to ever win MVP honors.

Paras looked just about ready to take over the PBA. Over the next
three seasons, he led Shell to two titles in three championship
appearances. But then injuries creeped in, and the lure of showbiz had
his mind focused on something other than basketball.

But he regained his focus in time in the late ’90s to put together
one of the finest seasons in league history in 1999. With the league in
the midst of the Fil-Am invasion, Paras led Shell to its first
All-Filipino title, winning his second MVP award — ten years after he
first made history.

1. Ramon Fernandez

The only reason Ramon Fernandez played center was because he was
6-foot-4 and taller than most of the other players on his team. In
truth, Fernandez had the skills and court vision of a point guard, the
quickness and agility of a forward, and the IQ to play any position on
the court.

In stark contrast to the brutish nature of early PBA basketball,
Fernandez played the game with an elegant grace — a sign of just how
easy the game came to him.

Perhaps it came too easy; many controversies hounded him throughout
his career. But all his achievements — four MVP awards; many
championships with Toyota, Tanduay, and San Miguel; all-time leadership
in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots — are enough to put him on top
of this list.

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Re: The List: Top Centers in PBA History

Post by skyscraper on Fri May 18, 2012 10:15 am

wala talaga tatalo kay Mon Fernandez! Woot!

Oks lang kahit #10 si idol Marlou, I'm still a proud fan :yaay:
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Re: The List: Top Centers in PBA History

Post by MythicalV on Fri May 18, 2012 10:30 am

hmm para sakin hindi Natural Center si Limpot and Codinera

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Re: The List: Top Centers in PBA History

Post by MR. FAST on Fri May 18, 2012 2:48 pm

Kung di lang naloko sa showbiz world yang si paras at nagkainjury baka naging number 1 pa yan

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