MANILA, Philippines – Battle-ready veteran Asi Taulava now knows how Robert Jaworski felt decades ago when the basketball legend returned to the game with a busted lip and led his team to victory.
"You just can't leave your teammates behind. It's the inner feeling that you don't ever want to quit, that's the never-say-die attitude,” he said in an interview with Spin.ph’s Snow Badua.
Taulava was referring to the game between Ginebra and Northern Consolidated in 1985,wherein Jaworski had to be rushed to the hospital after sustaining a busted lip due to Jeff Moore’s wayward elbow. Jaworski came back eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter sporting a bandaged upper lip to the delight of the pro-Ginebra crowd. Despite his team being down by 15 points, the legendary basketball star was able to inspire Ginebra to victory.
The same thing happened on Wednesday when Taulava sustained a nasty cut in his forehead during their game against a desperate GlobalPort. The 40-year-old big man collided with Dior Lowhorn’s wayward elbow in the second quarter, opening a large gash over Taulava’s left eyebrow.
He had his wound taped so he could return in the third quarter, but the cut opened again. With his team’s chances of getting a twice-to-beat on the line, Taulava asked the medics to double the bandage on his cut so he could better help his team.
The gambit paid off, as his presence in the paint aided Air21 to a 106-102 victory against the Batang Pier.
"They (doctors) really wanted me to leave [the game] because it was so deep. I can't leave my little brothers. There was a battle going on, you can't just walk off the battlefield, " explained Taulava.
The win improved Air21’s record to 5-3 record, which meant that they are still on the hunt for one of the top four spots in the quarter finals. The top four seeded teams will each get a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.
It took five stitches to close Taulava's wound but the veteran athlete vowed to play even while nursing an injury.
"When can you remember Air21 to be 5 and 3 (win-loss card) and up there fighting at the top of the standings? This is a great opportunity for us to carry on," he said.
"This injury can't stop me from playing in the next game,” he stressed.