This Day in PBA History: Fernandez reaches 2,000 defensive rebounds milestone

Rey Joble

Posted at Dec 07 2021 02:16 PM

PBA legend and Hall of Famer Mon Fernandez had practically achieved almost all individual citations while playing for Asia's pioneering professional basketball league.

That includes being the first player to pull down 2,000 defensive rebounds.

On this day 41 years ago, on December 7, 1980, during the start of the best-of-5 All-Filipino finals between archrivals Crispa and Toyota, Fernandez accomplished the feat.

It was also on the same day that Fernandez played one of his better games, scoring 48 points, but the Tamaraws fell short and allowed the Redmanizers to take the head start in the series and extend their winning streak to 18 straight games.

Fernandez's game matured as just the previous year, he lost a hotly contested MVP derby to Aty Co, who won the individual plum.

But that didn't stop Fernandez from evolving his game.

He was not the typical big man who would dominate and use the shaded lane as his bread and butter.

Fernandez was the total package as he was like a guard in a big man's body. He's the only center in the PBA to register 5,000 assists and become a member of the 1,000 steals club.

His longevity was proof of his greatness as he is one of only two players to play more than 1,000 games, the other one was his old rival Abet Guidaben.

Fernandez was a freak of nature that he was arguably named the greatest ever PBA player even though June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer now has 6 Most Valuable Player awards.

Fellow PBA Hall of Famer Norman Black, who coached Fernandez at San Miguel, attributed a big part of his success with the Beermen to El Presidente.

"We won the first conference in 1988 with me playing as import/coach, then in the second conference, we lost and failed to make it to the championship round, but we made a big trade. We got Mon Fernandez for Abet Guidaben," said Black.

That was the second time both players switched places. In 1985, Fernandez, then playing for Manila Beer, was traded for Guidaben, who was seeing action then for Tanduay.

"He came in and reinforced us in the third conference when I came back and played again with Michael Phelps and we beat the team of Bobby Parks who was playing for Shell at that time, for the championship. That trade was a big trade for us and that started us to our success moving forward," added Black. 
 
The 6-foot-4 Fernandez retired as a 19-time PBA champion, the most by any player who played in the PBA.

He was also a 4-time MVP, member of the league's 25 and 40 Greatest Players' list, a Hall of Fame awardee and retired with the most number of points, rebounds, and shot blocks while also ending up second in steals (next to Johnny Abarrientos) and assists (next to Robert Jaworski). 

 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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