It takes a gifted athlete to make a difference in a game. It takes a special athlete to make a big one.
Caloy Loyzaga was dubbed as “The Big Difference”, and he is what His Airness Michael Jordan is to the NBA. He earned the moniker not because of his height (6-foot-3), but because of his impact to the outcome of the game when he plays. During his playing days in the 1950s to the early ‘60s, a man of his size was rare, and he was one heck of a center – a force in rebounding combined with excellent shooting. Loyzaga is a Filipino basketball legend, and arguably, the biggest one.
Born on the 29th of August, 1930, to a family passionate with sports in San Jose, Mindoro, Loyzaga stood at the helm of the basketball team he organized together with his family. It wasn’t long before his talents were recognized when former Olympian Fely Fajardo took him to play in the NCAA with the San Bedia Red Lions. When Loyzaga missed time on the court due to scholastic reasons, the Red Lions failed the coveted Zamora Trophy. When he returned, he led them to win three titles in 1951, ’52, and ’55.
Among his numerous accomplishments, the one that will be etched on the memories of most Filipinos is how he spearheaded the 1954 Philippine national team at the FIBA World Basketball Championship in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The Philippine team finished third overall, the highest ever our country was able to place in basketball globaly.
When his playing days were done, Loyzaga went to Australia to live with his wife Vicky Cuerva. In 2011, he suffered a stroke that paved his return to the Philippines as requested by his children.
“He had a lot of day-to-day responsibilities back in Australia,” recalled Loyzaga’s son Chito, who himself is a former PBA player and a member of the Silver medal-winning 1990 Asian Games national team. “Both he and my mom were at a point where they could no longer take care of themselves on their own. So, me and my siblings decided that it’s best for them to come home.”
Despite his condition, Loyzaga’s love for the sport never faded as he bonded with his family through watching basketball games of his alma mater. He cheered, clapped, and made hand gestures in an attempt to share his opinion about certain plays. His love for basketball has remained the same.
This morning, at the age of 85, “The Big Difference” was welcomed to the heavens. As Filipinos mourn the loss of one of the biggest sports icons in Philippine history, we celebrate the legacy that he has left behind – how he made a big difference to put the world on notice of Philippine basketball, and, how he showed that time and age makes no difference when it comes to the purest love for the sport.