At age 45, “The Big J” Robert Jaworski continued to prove why he should be considered one of the – if not the – all-time greatest guards in PBA history.
On this day, 31 years ago, Jaworski became the first player in league history to register 5,000 assists.
The spirited playing coach of Ginebra, who embodied the team’s never-say-die spirit, led the Gin Kings to two finals runs capped by a dramatic championship in the First Conference of 1991 where his squad rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven finals against Shell before completing victory.
Looking back, long-time assistant coach Rino Salazar recalled why Jaworski is extraordinary.
“Sa ensayo man o sa laro, makikita mo naman siya,” said Salazar. “Kung mayroon kang hahanapin sa isang player, ’yung katulad ni coach Sonny. He gives his 100-percent every time he plays.”
Jaworski’s long-time teammate, Mon Fernandez, who received the PSA’s Lifetime Achievement award along with The Living Legend represented by his son, Dodot recently, relished the opportunity of playing with or against him.
“I won’t say he’s the best teammate ever,” said Fernandez. “Depende kasi sa composition ng team. Sa Toyota, siguro, masasabi ko, yes. In every team, there will be somebody who will up such description. May kanya-kanya kasing roles na ginagampanan. Depende sa panahon. But with Toyota, definitely, he is.”
Jaworski and Fernandez won nine championships together while playing for Toyot until the team disbanded by the end of the 1983 season.
When Jaworski and Fernandez went separate ways, they became the bigger than the game itself. They became bitter rivals and the rivalry elevated the popularity of the PBA to a new level.
“He was definitely on top of my list,” said Fernandez, a four-time MVP and Hall of Famer like Jaworski.