Only two pictures emerge from the dusts of a battlefield after the final buzzer of a championship-clinching game rings throughout the arena.
One features jubilation — an indescribable feeling of being on top after sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears to reach the throne. There is nothing that matters at this point but the final score, regardless of margin. It is simple math: the more points you score against the opposing team equals eternity.
The other showcases absolute silence, followed by what-ifs and should-have-beens after a hard-fought affair that once again ended in a familiar, always-the-bridesmaid-but-never-the-bride storyline.
Even with a chance to win it all before the end of the first overtime, and despite a play drawn by Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao, Lee opted to carry the load by his lonesome, hoisting an ill-advised 35-footer that never saw the bottom of the net.
He was very fortunate as Jayson Castro was able to throw up a last-second attempt that kissed the front of the rim, sending the game to a second overtime.
Given another chance to redeem himself, Lee fought tooth and nail until the final buzzer, only to fall short for the third time in five conferences.
Years back, Lee was part of the University of the East Red Warriors’ squad which pushed Ateneo de Manila University to the limit in the UAAP basketball finals, but the Blue Eagles smothered them in Game 3.
In 2014, with the Elasto Painters down 2-3 against the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers in the Philippine Cup finals and only a minute left in Game 6, Lee drove baseline and lost the ball as the chance of extending the series to a decider slipped away.
Make no mistake, Lee already has a championship under his belt, but he hardly saw action when Rain or Shine won the 2012 Governors’ Cup crown as he was nursing a shoulder injury that kept him out for most of the series.
The 2015 Commissioner’s Cup was a perfect time to take centerstage. Lee was absolutely healthy and was months removed from historic stints at the FIBA Asia Cup in China and the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
He was clearly on the top his game and was emerging as one of the best backcourt players in the league today. His scoring increased and was the only Elasto Painter capable of creating more than a third of his team’s total output.
He repeatedly told media that the series against Talk ‘N Text was the team’s closest chance to win another championship given the talented roster that they have.
He took the long range shot armed with a mindset to erase the agonizing past, yet not even a career-high 38 points on 14-for-26 field goal shooting and 7-for-15 three-point clip could salvage a win and provide an escape from desolation.
The 26-year-old Lee fell short yet again, and silence continued ringing throughout one portion of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
There were no words to describe the feeling of defeat, but perhaps it happened to validate Lee’s greatness.
Defeat happens to even the best.
Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.
Efren “Bata” Reyes.
“Triggerman” Allan Caidic.
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao.
Elorde is the greatest super featherweight boxer of all time but in his 10th professional fight was knocked out.
Reyes is considered as one of the best pool players to ever play but it took “Bata” 20 years into his pro career before he won his first major billiards title.
Caidic, the greatest shooter in Philippine basketball history, missed two crucial free throws in the finals of the 44th season of the UAAP basketball tournament that gave rival school FEU the championship.
Pacquiao, the only eight division champion in boxing history, was knocked out in a devastating way in 2012 and some wanted to believe he would never see the light of the day again.
Silence, after all, is good.
It makes the best even better. It makes the strong even stronger. It helps the generational greats become all-time greats.
Lee left the venue still in utter disbelief.
But he should be delighted.
It is part of a road that will soon end in a picture he designed.
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