By Drei Christopher Villanueva
Four years ago, with Father Time catching up, 6-foot-9 former slotman Asi Taulava was without a team to play for, forcing him to find his luck playing in the Asean Basketball League with the San Miguel Beermen. There, The Rock proved that age is just a number as he would work his way back into a shape that would enable him to get back to the top.
He would win the ABL MVP in 2013, while helping the Beermen to the championship, allowing for his return to the PBA as he would join the Air 21 Express where he turned the team into a serious title contender.
In 2014, Taulava and the Express nearly wielded the upset ax on the San Mig Coffee Mixers, who went on to win the grand slam that season. But the veteran center’s contribution was rewarded as he was cited the Comeback Player Awardee for making his way back to the top. He was a strong contender for the award won by June Mar Fajardo.
For Taulava, the secret to staying in the game is simply to live a healthy lifestyle and work extremely hard.
“I always watch what I eat. Of course, I have my cheat days, but you really have to work harder. There’s no short cut from being on the top of your game,” said Taulava.
Last year, when the country’s premier big men like Fajardo, seven-foot Greg Slaughter, and Japeth Aguilar failed to represent the national team due to various injuries, Taulava, pushing himself at 42, heeded the call and played for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Injuries brought about by wear and tear had sidelined Taulava during the off season, but that didn’t slow down the only player to have won the MVP award both in the PBA and the ABL.
He would continue to push himself and proved his worth, part of the reason why he was given a two-year contract extension by NLEX just recently, meaning that Taulava will play at least until he reaches 45.
“It’s surprised me because players at my age would normally request to get contract extension, but it’s really flattering they offered me a two-year deal. Maybe they saw something in me and for that, I’m grateful,” added Taulava.
But for Taulava, getting a new two-year deal entails a lot of responsibilities, which will fall on his shoulders as he is the leader of the Road Warriors team that has yet to make its headway in the playoffs in two years in the PBA.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” said Taulava.
Taulava isn’t making plans yet on when to stop playing. He’s not chasing any record like the one set by the legendary Robert Jaworski, who left the game at the age of 52, but he wants to play the game that he loves and continue to be an inspiration to his younger teammates.
Of course, nothing would give Taulava more pleasure than winning a championship.
“That’s my dream,” said Taulava, “To win another championship before I retire.”