TWENTY six years after his retirement, PBA legend Ramon Fernandez remains as one of the biggest and most influential voices in local sports.
In the PBA, “El Presidente” kept the fans to their feet with smiles on their faces with his trademark elegant shot.
As a player, he always tried to get the most points, then the most rebounds and then the most blocks.
By the time he retired in 1994 after 1,074 games, he had the most points (18,996), most rebounds (8,642) and most blocks (1,853).
To him, he was always compelled to do more, get better and go higher.
And to almost everyone he encountered, he always appeared larger than life.
Fernandez is no longer playing basketball nowadays.
But when he talks, we all listen.
And in last Thursday’s Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) “Usapang Sports on Air”, Fernandez had a lot to say.
Let’s listen to him:
On the effects of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to the performances of the Filipino athletes:
“Definitely there will be some effects. It could be good or a little bit bad depending on the sports. Yun mga atleta natin like Jamie Lim and two others in karate, puro mga bata pa. If they qualify, they have a good chance. Tapos yun mga kalaban nila na nandun na, mas matanda na. May advantage na yun mga bata. That’s the reality of sports.”
On reports that more than half of the Tokyo population is against the staging of the Tokyo Olympics next year due to safety concerns:
“We just have to prepare the way we should prepare, like everything will be in place pag natuloy ang Tokyo Olympics. Pag may ibang countries na hindi sumali, that’s an advantage to our athletes. Sa training, pare-pareho lang dahil lahat ng mga bansa na-apektuhan. Everybody is in the same boat.
On the PBA situation during the coronavirus pandemic:
“I think the PBA is in good hands right now under Commissioner Willie Marcial. With his experience, he knows what to do.”
On NBA prospect Kai Sotto:
“Ever since I retired, bihira na ako makanood ng basketball game na kumpleto. I have seen only glimpses of Kai playing. But sa nakita ko, he’s very mobile and the fact na kinuha sya ng mga scout to play abroad, yun abilidad nya pwede naman. Napaka-laki ng future nya. It’s good na pinili nya to go out there and train abroad and play against the highest level of competition possible.”
On more Filipino players now being invited to play in international competitions:
“I’m sure nakikita naman talaga nila yun mga talents ng mga Pilipino. I guess it’s only now that they are trying to hire Filipino players in their leagues. But that’s good. For me, they should go for it. As I’ve said, an athlete is only as good as his competition. So if I want to improve the level of my game, I will go up to the highest level of competition.
On players shunning the PBA and choosing to play in the Japan Basketball League and other international competitions:
“I believe the competition in international leagues are much higher than ours. Nun panahon namin, kami-kami lang nagkakalaban every year– from 1975 to about 1990. Yun level of competition was the same. May konti lang improvement. Iba yun nakakalaro ka sa abroad. That’s why swerte yun mga players natin ngayon, na nakakalaro sa international competitions.
On his all-time favorite teammates in the PBA:
“Madami akong naging magagaling na teammates. I remember Ompong Segura, Edward Camus, Gil Cortez, yun mga nakasama ko ‘nun nag-uumpisa kami sa Toyota dati. Then sa San Miguel nalipat ako at dun ako nagtagal, nandun sina Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Yves Dignadice and Alfie Almario. Sa Tanduay, sina Freddie Hubalde at Padim Israel.
On players who provided the biggest challenge to him:
Of course, nandyan sina Abet Guidaben at Philip Cezar of Crispa. Pati sina Jimmy Javier, Bong de la Cruz, panay taga sa mukha ko. Pati sina Chito Loyzaga, Yoyoy Villamin at Manny Victorino. I consider them na magaling dumepensa sa akin. May respeto ako sa kanila.”
On his all-time favorite championship:
“The championships closest to my heart are the 1972 ABC Youth and 1973 FIBA Asia. I consider them my most important championships. For me, my childhood goal is really to play for the country. Yun mga award sa PBA, parang icing on the cake na lang yun.
NOTES — Happy 78th birthday to my loving mom Virginia Nell Andaya, who celebrated another special day on the 4th of July.
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