This Day in PBA History: NBA’s Washington Bullets play PBA stars

Rey Joble

Posted at Sep 04 2021 06:01 PM | Updated as of Sep 04 2021 07:15 PM

As early as the 1970s, NBA players were frequent visitors in the PBA, playing a series of exhibition games.

One such match happened this day 42 years ago on September 4, 1979. 

The Washington Bullets — bannered by two of the NBA’s greatest players ever, Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, Kevin Porter, who would later on play for Toyota, and the beefy Dave Corzine, and coached by Dick Motta — went up against a PBA selection that consisted of the league Mythical First Team in the 1979 season. 

They were Ramon Fernandez, Philip Cezar, Arnie Tuadles, Atoy Co, and Robert Jaworski. The other players on the roster were Jesse Sullano of Honda, Manny Paner of Great Taste, and Rudolf Kutch of Filmanbank.

They were reinforced by five imports who were playing that season led by Glenn McDonald of U/Tex, Cyrus Mann of Crispa, Larry Pounds of Royal Tru-Orange, and Larry McNeil and Dean Tolson of Gilbey’s. 

Coaching the PBA selection was the late great Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan of Crispa.

The Bullets brought in only 9 players, but they proved to be too much even against an import-laden PBA selection. 

Jay P. Mercado, long-time PBA observer and considered a league historian, recalled how the Bullets, runner-up to then NBA champions Seattle Supersonics, breezed past the PBA selection, 133-123.

“The Bullets were never threatened and led all the way,” wrote Mercado via Facebook Messenger. 

“Coach Baby Dalupan of the PBA selection opted to put in 3 imports and 2 locals at the same time from the get-go, but the Bullets were too powerful. It came to a point when Baby fielded in 5 imports at the same time just to keep in step.”

The game was filled with excitement even though it was only an exhibition match.

None more exciting was the confrontation between Co and Corzine, who nearly came to blows.

“It was a huge crowd with no less than the First Lady (Imelda Marcos) in attendance,” added Atty. Percival Flores, a long-time basketball fan who’s been chronicling some of the most significant basketball moments over the past 5 decades.

“Kevin Porter made a lot of dazzling plays. Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes dominated the paint, while Kevin Grevey provided perimeter shooting. On the PBA’s end, Mon Fernandez was the best local player then.”

For the Bullets, it was an opportunity to showcase the NBA brand of basketball. They had been to the Finals for 2 straight seasons, winning in 1978.

For the imports playing for the PBA selection, it was a chance to perform in front of their fellow Americans, hoping they would get noticed and be given another chance to play in the big league.

“It was a window of opportunity for some of these imports like McNeil, to showcase their wares, hoping to get an invite to try out and return to the NBA,” Mercado said.

“Given the PBA selection didn’t have enough time to practice as a team, they relied on their individual skills while Washington displayed teamwork. As such, McNeil and Tolson, the two reinforcements of new PBA team Gilbey’s Gin, tried to do their things on their own.”

Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that.


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