PBA’s original ‘sultan of swipe’, Fabiosa shares how he became a steals savant

Rey Joble

Posted at Jul 25 2021 02:25 PM

Fabiosa, Arnaiz reach milestones in rare single-day feat

For many years, Bernie Fabiosa and Francis Arnaiz shared the spotlight in the backcourt whenever old rivals Crispa and Toyota faced each other.

Their rivalry spilled over even after the fabled teams disbanded with Fabiosa moving to Shell, the franchise that acquired the old Crispa squad, and Arnaiz joining old buddy Robert Jaworski at Gilbey’s Gin, later on named as Ginebra San Miguel.

But on July 20, 1986, during the All-Filipino Conference when Shell battled Ginebra, both Fabiosa and Arnaiz took center stage and achieved a milestone.

Known in the local basketball circuit as the “Sultan of Swipe”, Fabiosa became the first player to complete 1,000 steals.

For Fabiosa, a member of Crispa’s two grand slam teams, who won a total of 15 PBA championships, it was his former teammate, import Glenn Hagan, who made him an even more efficient player when it comes to stealing the ball. 

“Sa Cebu pa lang kasi ’yun ang laro ko, agaw-agaw,” Fabiosa said. 

“Kaya nu’ng dumating ako sa Manila, pinag-aralan ko na talaga ’yun kasi ang liit-liit ko. Tingnan mo si Yoyong (Martirez). Paano sila nakakatulong sa game? Ganu’n rin ginagawa ko.”

How did Fabiosa develop his skills in stealing the basketball?

“Naalala ko noong araw sa probinsiya, ’yung mga langaw, hinuhuli-huli ko,” added Fabiosa. 

“Madalas akong nakakahuli. So minsan, nu’ng ensayo namin sa Crispa, si Rey Pages, parati kaming nag one-on-one niyan. Ineensayo ko paano ko siya agawan ng bola. Hanggang dumating ’yung Glenn Hagan tinuruan rin niya ako. 

“Sabi niya (in English) kapag nagdi-dribble ’yung kalaban mo sa harap, bilangan mo ng 1, 2, 3. In fact, 1, 2 and a half pa lang, sundot na. So ’yun ’yung na-develop ko.”

Fabiosa emerged as one of the greatest players the PBA has ever produced, being included in the league’s 25 Greatest list.

Coincidentally, on a night when Fabiosa achieved a milestone, his rival, Arnaiz, also shared a feat.

Arnaiz became the fourth player to reach the 10,000-point club, joining Atoy Co, the earliest to make it there, old teammate Mon Fernandez and William “Bogs” Adornado.

A PBA hall-of-famer, Arnaiz is a 10-time PBA champion, winning 9 for the defunct Toyota and becoming a member of Ginebra’s first champion team in 1986.

Right after the 1986 PBA season, Arnaiz would retire from playing and moved to the United States. The 70-year-old cager, who became the other half of Toyota’s Dynamic Duo in the backcourt is now a Pastor. 

Rey Joble is a sportswriter who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and a fan of the league way before that. 

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