After 3 seasons playing second fiddle to Alvin Patrimonio, Nelson Asaytono was finally bound for stardom and on his first season with his new team, Swift Mighty Meaties "the Bull" quickly made his presence felt.
The 6-foot-3 forward powered his way in making the Mighty Meaties a legitimate title contender and Asaytono was the immediate frontrunner for the Most Valuable Player award.
He became the franchise player and on this day, July 2, 1992, Asaytono set the record for the most number of free-throw attempts during the “hotdog wars” encounter between his former team, Purefoods, and his new squad Swift.
Asaytono would hit 24-of-27 attempts from the free-throw line, but the Mighty Meaties lost to the Tender Juicy Hotdogs, 110-106.
With Asaytono in charge, the Mighty Meaties made a good run during that season. The team finished fourth in the First Conference, third in the All-Filipino, but blazed their way to the championship in the season-ending Third Conference when "the Hurricane" Tony Harris breezed past the competition and gave the franchise their first ever title.
Throughout their campaign, Asaytono was a basketball tour de force for the Mighty Meaties as he would average 22.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game to lead his team’s scoring production. He was the statistical leader in the MVP derby, but lost the award to Ato Agustin.
Asaytono and another Swift player, Al Solis, would join Agustin, Patrimonio and Ramon Fernandez in the First Mythical Team selection.
Several times in his career, Asaytono would end up at the short end of the MVP race. The following season, after helping the Mighty Meaties in winning their second title, he found himself disputing another tightly fought derby for the MVP along with former teammates Patrimonio and Jerry Codiñera, and would lose the award to Patrimonio.
A similar case happened in 1997 when Patrimonio snared the MVP award and Asaytono was having the finest season of his career while playing for the San Miguel Beermen where he averaged a personal best 23.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Asaytono would become a member of a champion team seven times, was awarded Best Player of the Conference twice, and would be named to the PBA All-Star Game 10 times.
To many, his non-inclusion in the league’s All-Time Greatest list was considered long overdue and fellow greats expect him to be added on the list when the PBA announces its 50 Greatest Players.
His record for most number of free throws in a single game may serve as a footnote, but it remains a single-game record and on this day nearly 30 years ago, he would make his mark in the history books.
Rey Joble is a sportswriter who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and a fan of the league way before that.