This Day in PBA History: Rivals Fabiosa of Crispa, Arnaiz of Toyota at center of near free-for-all

Rey Joble

Posted at Oct 02 2021 03:30 PM

Expect things to heat up every time bitter rivals Crispa and Toyota face each other inside the hard court.

One of those incidents happened exactly 39 years ago today, October 2, 1982, when Crispa guard Bernie Fabiosa and his counterpart, Francis Arnaiz, got involved in the centerpiece of the action.

With only 1:30 left in regulation with Toyota leading by one, 109-108, in their 1982 Open Conference elimination round match, Fabiosa drove hard, lost his balance, and fell hard to the basket.

Arnaiz, his old rival, apparently went to Fabiosa, extending his hand to help him up.

Fabiosa didn’t like Arnaiz’s gesture, and instead picked himself up and spat at the Toyota spitfire. 

“Nu’ng game namin, parati akong binibigyan ng fastbreak,” said Fabiosa. “Tapos may mga times, ayaw akong tawagan, so naiinis ako. So isang beses nag-layup ako, may foul, bumagsak ako. Eto namang si Kiko (Arnaiz), nu’ng bumagsak ako, inabot ’yung kamay, gusto akong itayo.”

“Sa akin, parang nainsulto ako. Parang iba ang dating sa akin. Pagtayo ko, dinuraan ko kaagad ’yung mukha. Tapos tumalikod ako. Pagtalikod ko, sinuntok ako. Ang lakas,” added Fabiosa. “Gusto kong balikan, kaso blackout ako eh (sa lakas ng suntok).”

But the action was just about to heat up.

“May sumigaw sa akin, ‘Yuko, yuko ka!’ So yumuko ako. ’Yun pala si (Toyota forward) Abe King susuntukin ako. Tapos si (Crispa guard) Rudy Distrito, nag-flying kick siya kay Abe King. Ayun, nagkagulo. Suspendido kaming apat,” added Fabiosa.

Then PBA commissioner Leo Prieto suspended the 4 players for their involvement in the melee and a lifetime ban was even suggested. 

A report published in Tempo on October 4, 1982, recounted that the spitting incident was not the one that triggered the fracas, but it was something that Fabiosa whispered to Arnaiz.

Fabiosa and Arnaiz patched things up and was being teased by their fellow players when they were included in the South All-Star team to play against the North side. 

“After that, mayroon kaming All-Star,” added Fabiosa. Magkakampi kami ni Kiko (Arnaiz). Kinakantyawan kami. ‘O sige ha, pagdating natin sa Cebu, ang magka-room mate si Fabiosa tsaka si Arnaiz ha’. Nagkakabiruan lang, pero after that (incident), wala na. Si Kiko, malinis yan talaga maglaro.”

The two buried the hatchet and in fact, right after Crispa and Toyota disbanded and they were already playing for Shell and Ginebra, Fabiosa and Arnaiz met accidentally at Faces Disco. It was the favorite hangout of PBA players, coaches, managers and even celebrities during that time in the 1980s.

“Nung pagpasok ko, lumapit sa akin yung waiter, may dalang bote. Kasi umiinom naman talaga ako nung araw. Sabi niya, Sir, may nag-offer sa iyo ng drinks. Sabi niya, ‘hindi ko kilala, Sir kasi madilim, andun siya sa bar.’ Nung pagkuha ko ng baso, pinuntahan ko yung tao sa bar. Pagtingin ko, si Francis,” said Fabiosa.

“Sabi ko, ‘ikaw ba nagbigay nito’? Sumagot siya, ‘oo, Pare.’ Nag-cheers kami.”

Arnaiz and Fabiosa became members of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All-Time.

Known as “Mr. Clutch”, Arnaiz retired as a 10-time PBA champion.

Fabiosa, given the moniker as “The Sultan Of Swipe”, was a member of two grand slam teams of Crispa and went on to win 15 championships, the last one with Purefoods in 1990 under the late great Baby Dalupan.

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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