by Tito S. Talao
Manila, Philippines – I MISSED the PBA All-Star Weekend for the first time in a long while, which meant I missed watching Johnny Abarrientos live during the Legends Game in Laoag City last Friday.
Which also meant I missed the chance to turn a long-ago dream into reality.
What that diehard’s dream is? To take on Johnny Abarrientos defensively in one play. He’d call for an isolation and we’d go one-on-one. Mano a mano. Just the two of us. He’d have the ball on top of the keyhole; I’d be planted somewhere above the free throw line, watching his every move like Neil Etheridge.
I had dropped by a number of team practices in the past and once Ricardo Brown, then with Great Taste Coffee, called me over as I spoke with coach Baby Dalupan during a break and asked me to “pick up, Tee-toe.“
Left-right, left-right, Brown invitingly bounced the ball in a blur in front of me while his twinkling eyes bored on mine. I timed my lunge and, using whatever quickness I had in my body, went for it.
Brown was airborne swishing in a 17footer when I looked up from the floor where I lay slumped on all fours. He grinned but I can’t recall if he helped me up.
Another time, Samboy Lim asked me to “guard him“ after winding up practice with San Miguel Beer. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity.
To make this horrid story short, after Samboy was through with his head-andshoulder fake at the baseline and had spun around in that wide, arching stride of his, I was left nailed at the low post where I anticipated the Skywalker would go while he was taking a fall-away jumper somewhere in the vicinity of the foul line, about 10 feet away.
I couldn’t even foul him if I wanted to.
But those guys are 6-footers while I barely scratch 5-foot-5, and they were at the prime of their careers when they made me realize I was better off in the press box than on the playing court.
Johnny A is around 5-foot-6, however, so I reckon I might have a shot.
I couldn’t have possibly touched him at the height of his virtuosity with the Alaska Aces. But he has since retired and I’ve been jogging regularly the past few weeks to get in shape.
But a domestic conflict kept me from going to the Ilocos Norte capital and so I missed everything.
Reading, however, about how the Flying A posted a triple double 10 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists(!) during the Greats vs Stalwarts game, I figured it was probably for the best that I wasn’t able to make it.
Abarrientos would have frozen me stiff trying to stay with him! So better luck next time for me. Next year, Johnny A, when the warm sea breeze and the cool waters of Boracay come calling, maybe we’ll get together finally. And we’ll reverse the situation: I get the ball atop the key and you try to guard me.
No, wait a second, let me check your career steals record first.
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BUZZER-BEATER: It’s a day late, but Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the world, especially ours, Mrs. Esperanza `Paching’ Santos Talao. A huge toast, mama!… My brother Vincent also celebrated a milestone yesterday. Cheers, `tol!