By Drei Christopher Villanueva
With the Philippine Cup now tied at 1-1 in a best-of-seven classic-in-the-making series between the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and San Miguel Beermen, Tim Cone’s admiration for the Living Legend Robert Jaworski never wavers.
Having grown up in the Philippines, Cone recalls with fondness watching Jaworski’s games from his early days to Big J’s MICAA stint as a member of the Meralco Reddies, as well as the time he moved to Toyota, all the way through to his ascension as the polarizing player/coach of Ginebra San Miguel.
In the past, Cone has shared stories of his fascination with Jaworski – from the time he was falling in love with basketball, up to the time they became coaching rival.
“I’ve told this story many times, but we used to shag balls for Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz, me and Fred Uytengsu (Alaska team owner),” said Cone. “Dalawang kano na batang-bata.”
Jaworski played for Meralco Reddies, a precursor of the Toyota Comets in the old MICAA and led the squad to the title in the 1971 Open Championship . The Living Legend of Philippine basketball would stay on to play for Toyota up to the time the squad moved up to the PBA, going on to win nine more championships with the team.
When Toyota folded in 1984, Jaworski moved to Gilbey’s Gin, which will be later known as Ginebra San Miguel and in his second season with the squad, the Big J will be named player/coach.
“Hard to believe, I grew up watching the PBA. I only watched my first NBA game when I was 19 years old,” Cone said. “All that time growing up was in MICAA and PBA. I was a huge Meralco fan first, then I became a Toyota fan. Right on up, to Ginebra. I was a Ginebra fan, believe it or not, until I became coach of Alaska, where I became public enemy No. 1.”
“Jaworski was a big part of my life growing up. Really. He was my idol talaga. You guys may all miss him.”
Jaworski, of course, was one of the 20,000-plus fans who energized the Gin Kings to secure their spot in the Finals last week. “In the middle of the game when we’re all tense, suddenly I heard, ‘Jaworski, Jaworski, Jaworski!’,” shared Cone. “It kinda relaxed me, so he [was there] watching. That kinda pumped us up.”
Cone was happy to see his idol gracing the game, but regretted not getting the chance to meet him when the Big J entered the Gin Kings’ locker room as he was attending the post game interview, only catching glimpses of the visit on television. “Oh there he is. He’s in our locker room. And I’m not there,” joked Cone, adding, “That’s really sad. Oh, bummer!”
With the Philippine Cup Finals now tied at 1-1, Cone surely hopes Jaworski would show up at one of their games in the ongoing best-of-seven series. As Big J himself reminded the Gin Kings, until they secure that trophy, “You haven’t achieved anything yet.”
Image source: Interaksyon, PBA Images