Throughout his entire PBA career, Ricky Relosa had 2 solid seasons, becoming a most improved awardee in 1986 and playing a big part in his team's 2 finals runs the following season.
Joining expansion squad Alaska in 1986, Relosa became one of the team's main men up front.
The following year, he was joined by another tough forward, former rival Yoyoy Villamin, and together they formed the fearsome twosome “Bruise Brothers” of the PBA.
Looking back, Relosa didn't expect he and Villamin would click as a frontcourt tandem.
"Ever since nasa amateur kami, nagbabanatan kami niyan. Nagtitirahan kami. Hindi ko nga alam na magki-click kami niyan," said Relosa.
But those years — 1986 and 1987 — were the best seasons in Relosa's career. He was included in the league's all-defensive team both times.
In 1987, he was a key figure in 2 finals runs by Hills Brothers, at the time the brand carried by Alaska.
But for the most part of his 11-year journey, Relosa built a reputation as one of the PBA's bad boys of the 1980s. His enforcer role somewhat overshadowed the things he could do more productively for his squad.
Relosa reflected at those times when he saw himself in trouble. Perhaps, the most vivid was his in-game fracas involving former Swift import Ronnie Thompkins during the 1993 Commissioner's Cup when the veteran cager hit the reinforcement at the back of the head and the reinforcement chased him all the way the Shell bench as things went out of hand.
"Madalas. Trouble marami," shared Relosa. "Noong 1982 pa lang marami na akong record. Kaya kapag nagpupunta ako kay Commissioner (Leo) Prieto nagagalit sa akin, rookie pa lang daw ako ang kapal na ng record ko. Uso na dati ’yung multa, pero hindi kami ang nagbabayad, ’yung team," added Relosa.
Relosa had the privilege of being coached by some of the greatest minds in Philippine basketball, but being under Tim Cone at Alaska was short-lived for obvious reasons.
"Si Tim Cone OK rin, pero hindi na rin kami nagtagal doon kasi inaalis ’yung matitigas ang ulo," said Relosa.
In a separate interview, Cone revealed some of his struggles during his rookie year as PBA coach and one of them was dealing with some of the old dogs in the league.
"I remember my first game, it was at the ULTRA. The locker room was located sa baba. Then you go up the stairs to enter the court. Halfway, there's an entrance," said Cone.
"The players are upstairs. We had a talk with the other members of the coaching staff and the players were already upstairs. It was halftime. We usually wait hanggang 2 minutes before we go back to the court. As I was walking, I saw two of my players. They were talking and they were smoking. So I just told them come on, go warm up."
Relosa acknowledged he was one of those players.
"Kumukuha lang ako ng oxygen," he said in jest.
Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that.
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