Respect is earned, not given.
That’s exactly what Jimmy Alapag wanted the rest of Gilas Pilipinas to understand when they went to Seville, Spain for the prestigious FIBA World Cup in 2014.
So one of his reminders to his teammates was simple: “No pictures until after the game or after the tournament.” And with pictures, he meant pictures with the stars of the other national teams.
After all, there was really no shortage of star power in that meet. In Group B alone where the Philippines was bracketed, Luis Scola was there to lead Argentina, and also JJ Barea and Carlos Arroyo for Puerto Rico.
“Greece was practicing after us and I think… I forgot who was practicing before us, but I know the guys were like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna take pictures after.’ And the reason why I told the guys like, ‘Hey, no pictures until after the game or after the tournament’ because I wanted the guys to respect us,” Alapag recalled in 2OT, presented by SMART and supported by Phenom Sportswear Inc., Saturday.
“That’s something that my dad taught me when I was a kid, ‘You treat people the best you can, and you respect people so that they respect you.'”
Even Paul Lee, who was teammates with Alapag in that global showpiece, attested to that when he guested in the same program last August 15.
“May time na nag-send si Cap Jimmy ng message doon sa Viber group namin. Siyempre may mga players na papa-picture tayong ganon, kasi siyempre mga legend din sa ibang bansa ‘yun, ‘di ba?” he said.
“Hindi naman nagalit si Cap Jimmy. Sinabi lang niya, ‘The reason why we’re here is business,’ parang ganon. So tanggalin niyo muna ‘yung mga ganyan, kasi kalaban natin ‘yan.”
For the former Gilas captain, he felt like the Filipino dribblers weren’t getting any respect, and he felt as much the moment the team arrived at the hotel in Seville, one of the six cities where games were held.
“I know that story resonates to a lot of people, but here was my reasoning behind it. We hadn’t been in that stage at, like, what, forty years? And I remember when we got to the hotel and the liaison for our team said, ‘Hey, everyone from FIBA, the volunteers, the hotel staff, everyone’s gonna be there in front to welcome you guys.’ So, this is forty, fifty people’,” he shared.
“And I’ll never forget, Jayson [Castro], LA [Tenorio], and I — we still laugh about this — we get off the bus and we’re the first three guys off the bus. And I tell you guys, the faces of everybody was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me! This can’t be the bus with the Philippine national team’,” Alapag remembered, narrating his story with a big smile.
“But as funny as it was, it made me realize right at that moment that they didn’t expect us to be there. And they thought that we would go there, lose by forty or fifty every game, and come back home.”
All that changed, however, when Gilas put up a gallant stand against Croatia — then the 16th-ranked team in the world — in its opening game. It lost by a mere three points, 78-81, in overtime.
“I really felt like we weren’t getting any respect up until that first game against Croatia. And after that, everything changed,” said Alapag, who collected six assists, four points, and a steal in the loss.
“Everybody knew that we deserve to be there, we were good enough to be there, and if you don’t come to play, we could beat you,” he added, as Gilas even led by three points in regulation.
Gilas gained the world’s attention after that, and it proved it belonged there when it gave the Greeks, the Argentinians, and the Puerto Ricans a run for their money before taking down Senegal.
But as he looked back on that particular reminder, Alapag admitted that there was a time he felt like a killjoy to his teammates for discouraging them from taking pictures, although everyone understood.
“I tell you man, I did feel so bad because I think Beau [Belga], Gary [David], and Ranidel [De Ocampo] wanted to get a picture with somebody. And I said, ‘Hey man, what are you guys doing? No pictures yet!’” he said with a chuckle.
“Yeah, it might have been with Scola, but the guys looked at me like, ‘Hey Cap, it’s just a picture!’ But again, I wanted them to see that we weren’t there as fans, that we were there to play.”
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