Philippine basketball’s most celebrated rivalry will be remembered and feted in the San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association (SMC-PSA) Annual Awards Night.
Cage legends Robert Jaworski Sr. and Ramon Fernandez are going to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in the March 14 gala night at the Diamond Hotel for their major contributions in a sport dearest to the hearts of this country of 110 million people.
The exclusive award will be one of the special recognitions to be handed out by the country’s oldest media organization during the affair which counts on the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), and Cignal TV as major partners, and backed by MILO, 1Pacman, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Rain or Shine, ICTSI, Chooks To Go, Smart, Philippine Racing Commission (Philracom), and the MVP Sports Foundation.
Jaworski and Fernandez initially formed part of the star-studded Toyota franchise that debuted in the old Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA), before taking its act to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) as one of its founding members.
Behind the two star players, the Tamaraws won nine championships in Asia’s pioneering pro league, before the team was unceremoniously disbanded before the start of the 1984 season.
Fernandez and Jaworski went their separate ways in an episode that eventually gave birth to their memorable hardcourt rivalry.
On their own, the Big J and El Presidente became larger than life.
Jaworski, 75, planted the seeds of what became known as the eminent mantra in local basketball lore behind Ginebra San Miguel’s popular ‘Never-Say-Die’ spirit. As its charismatic playing-coach, he steered the franchise to four championships before formally retiring from playing in 1998.
Fernandez, 68, and currently a Philippine sports commissioner, became the most single deadly force in PBA history, claiming three more MVP awards in his post-Toyota days and winning 11 additional championships in his stint with Tanduay and San Miguel, including a grand slam in 1989. He retired as the league’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, free throws made, and career minutes played.
Years later, the two rivals eventually buried the hatchet and patched things up – initiated by the late legendary coach Baby Dalupan – behind that lasting ‘Jaworski to Fernandez pass’ for the 132-130 win at the buzzer during the 1989 PBA All-Star game.
A year after, the former teammates collaborated as coach-player in the Philippines’ silver medal finish in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, marking the first time the country sent an all-pro team in international competitions.
Previous recipients of Lifetime Achievement awards by the country’s sportswriting community included Dalupan, billiards icon Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes, the late former ambassador and basketball project director Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, 1973 Philippine men’s basketball team, Filomeno ‘Boy’ Codinera, Gintong Alay project director Joey Romasanta, among others.