‘Idol Jawo’

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‘Idol Jawo’

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:00 pm

‘Idol Jawo’
Posted on July 03, 2012 08:46:09 PM

After parting in an abrupt, and in part acrimonious, fashion, the Barangay Ginebra Kings and Philippine basketball’s “Living Legend” Robert Jaworski straighten things up and celebrate their special partnership the way it ought to be.

On July 8, Sunday, the Philippine Basketball Association ball club honors “The Big J” by retiring his iconic #7 jersey in ceremonies to be held in between games. Company officials said the jersey retirement is their way of thanking “Idol Jawo,” as some Ginebra fans would like to call Jaworski, for his invaluable contribution to the brand and company and Philippine basketball in general.

With “#7 Jaworski” being retired, no player in the Ginebra team can use the number. If they want to use it, they have to ask permission from the sports icon himself, or if they want they can use “7 1/2” as Jaworski himself jokingly put it.

For long-time fans of the PBA such an honor for The Big J is long overdue. Considering what he did for the team in more ways than one during his stay there, such recognition is a no-brainer. But in fairness to the team, had a misunderstanding over a coaching change back in 1998 not muddled things, such an honor to Jaworski would have come much, much earlier.

With Jaworski, the Ginebra franchise soared. After a successful and legendary career with Toyota, along with the likes of Ramon Fernandez and Francis Arnaiz, he took his act to Ginebra in 1984 where he helped turn the fortunes of what was then a moribund team as player-coach. In 13 years with Ginebra, he guided the team to 10 finals appearances and four titles -- 1986 Open Conference, 1988 All-Filipino Conference, 1991 First Conference and 1997 Commissioner’s Cup.

But more than bringing the titles and league relevance to the ball club, Jaworski’s greatest achievement with the team is undoubtedly giving the franchise an enduring identity -- that “never say die spirit.” Taking cue from the former University of the East stalwart’s indefatigable spirit to succeed no matter the odds, the Gin Kings under Jaworski channeled giant-slayers and comeback kids in many occasions and on the biggest stage at that -- something that continues up to this day of new-generation Kings -- that endeared them to countless basketball fans and made them the de facto team of the people three decades into their PBA existence.

Jaworski, too, was a master motivator that had the ability to bring the best out of his wards. While his Ginebra teams did not brim with league stars, he was able to form squads that would not back down from anybody. Under his wings, the careers at various points of “fringe” players like Sonny Cabatu, Benny Cheng, Rey Cuenco, Macky DeJoya, Romulo Mamaril, Wilmer Ong, Jun Marzan and Larry Villanil flourished while making stars out of the likes of Chito Loyzaga, Dondon Ampalayo, Dante Gonzalgo, Rudy Distrito, Pido Jarencio, Leo Isaac, Jayvee Gayoso, Vince Hizon, Marlou Aquino, Noli Locsin and Bal David. Collectively under the baton of their charismatic player-coach, who incidentally played until he was 50 years old (!), these Ginebra players played “spirited tunes” that only served to fortify their place in PBA lore.

Which is why if someone is to ask who more than ever deserves to have his jersey retired in the PBA, Idol Jawo is top of mind. For all he did both on and off the court not only for the Ginebra team but to the PBA itself, much honor and recognition should be channeled his way. A legend through and through, salute to The Big J.

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