This Day in PBA History: Jaworski reaches 2,000 assists

Rey Joble

Posted at May 06 2022 08:28 AM

Who’s the best past-first guard in the PBA?

Without a doubt, it was Robert Jaworski, the man who embodied the never-say-die spirit of Ginebra San Miguel. And statistics don’t lie.

In 23 seasons playing in Asia’s pioneering professional basketball league, Jaworski emerged as the all-time leader in assists with 5,825 dimes.

For five straight seasons from 1976 to 1980, “The Big J” led the PBA in assists, but what’s more remarkable was the fact that he last led the league in this category as a 42-year-old playing coach of Añejo Rum 65 during the 1988 season.

With Jaworski leading the charge and keeping a hold of the 65ers with his brilliant playmaking, Añejo won the 1988 All-Filipino by beating the powerhouse but upstart Purefoods Hotdogs in their best-of-five championship series.

Jaworski was the first to reach the 2,000 assists mark and made history on this day, May 6, 1980, during the game between Toyota and Honda where the Tamaraws blasted their rivals, 129-113.

Toyota ended up with the tournament’s best record of 15-3 in the double round eliminations of the 1980 Open Conference. Although they reached the championship round, they ended up losing the best-of-five finals series against the U/Tex Wranglers in a historic overtime match, 99-98.

U/Tex fought back from four points down in the last 16 seconds before pulling off one of the greatest come from behind victories in a championship game.

But there’s no question about Jaworski’s playmaking skills and that’s one of the things that endeared him not only to the fans, former teammates and ex-players, but his rivals as well.

Jaworski, however, is bigger than the game.

Ronnie Magsanoc had the highest respect for Jaworski when it comes to professionalism.

In the 1990 First Conference, Magsanoc, Benjie Paras and the late great Bobby Parks led Shell to its first ever championship over Añejo, but not after the 65ers decided to forfeit the match after walking out of the court in Game 6.

But despite the brewing rivalry developed between the young players from Shell led by Paras and Magsanoc and the veteran-laden Añejo squad of Jaworski, the league’s “Point Laureate” was still included by the Living Legend of Philippine basketball in the first ever all-PBA national squad in the 1990 Asian Games.

“To some, there was bad blood,” said Magsanoc. “I never expected that I will be selected. Invitation lang ’yun to be a part of the team, wala namang tryouts noon. Parang made na ’yung 15. Since two weeks to prepare lang ’yun, lumabas na lang ’yung pangalan ko. Nagulat ako talaga. It was really special kasi hindi ko talaga inaasahan.”

“I really wanted to be a part of the team. Ang dream ko talaga is to represent the national team as many times as I can. I really wanted to play against Korea na hindi namin tinalo. Pero iba na ito eh. Sina coach Sonny Jaworski na ito, sina Mon Fernandez tapos nakasama ko ulit si Benjie, sina Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim na naging teammates ko rin. I was so thankful to Coach Sonny Jaworski for this opportunity.”

Vince Hizon played for Jaworski’s team from 1995 to 1998 and it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

“I have high respect for coach Jaworski,” added Hizon. “He took me under his wing even before I got into the PBA. His son, Dodot, and me were very close. I actually lived in the same subdivision so we saw each other quite a bit. He would always help me and always encourage me even when I wasn’t playing for him then.

“When I became his player, it was a different type of encouragement and I responded well. Ginebra was a different level. It was really like a homecoming because that was the first team I practiced.”