Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez were among the PBA's most dominant figures since the league's inception in 1975 until the mid 1990s.
They were part of the legendary Toyota team, which waged numerous wars on the hardcourt and even out of it.
But just as their partnership was mythical, so was their personal rivalry, which began in 1982 and later devolved into a cold war of sorts.
"Within the whole year of 1982, Sonny had a groin injury. I can't remember how many game he played in 1982," Fernandez said in "An Eternity of Basketball" Zoom-cast, referring to Jaworski, who was in his mid-30s at the time.
Jaworski was the acknowledged leading figure among the Super Corollas, but with the "Big J" injured Fernandez took over that role as the main man for Toyota, which won 2 PBA titles despite Jaworski's absence.
Fernandez said he was approached by an editor of a news daily and was asked about his opinion on Jaworski's health status.
Fernandez's response went: "Honestly, taking from a player's point of view, considering his age, he has nothing to prove anymore, he served in the national team, he played so many games, he proved himself in the court. I don't know how bad his injury (was), isa sa mga options (niya) pwede is mag-retire. Pwede siyang mag-coach or mag-team manager. There's life after basketball."
"Hindi nagustuhan ni Sonny 'yun," the 4-time PBA MVP added.
And so their rivalry began, leading to a power struggle at Toyota.
When the club disbanded in 1984, Fernandez moved to Beer Hausen as the team's franchise player while Jaworski and Toyota teammate Francis Arnaiz went to Gilbey's Gin.
Gilbey's later turned into fan favorite Barangay Ginebra, and Jaworski became its playing head coach. Fernandez, meanwhile, also played for Tanduay, Purefoods, and San Miguel Beer.
Their "cold war" eventually ended in 1989 when the two became teammates on the Veterans squad during 1989 all-star game.
In the final play, Jaworski threw the inbound pass to Fernandez for the game-winning basket.
Their coach, Baby Dalupan, later stepped in and coaxed Fernandez and Jaworski to shake hands.
Fernandez said he hadn't seen a player with a work ethic such as Jaworski's.
"At that time, I've never seen a player conditioned himself, disciplined himself for the game (the way Jaworski did)," he said.
"I didn't see him uminom even wine that time. Noon, 'pag championship o 'pag natalo kayo kelangan uminom. 'Pag nanalo, 'Pare, ang sarap uminom.' He has not drank a single drop, even wine or beer."
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