It was like a homecoming of sorts for Jerry Codinera and Rey Evangelista on Sunday as Purefoods gave them a fitting tribute, honoring two of the all-time best players by retiring their jersey numbers.
Officially beginning November 9 of this year, no other Purefoods player can wear numbers 44 and 7, respectively in respect to Codinera and Evangelista.
Just like their storied career, their jersey numbers have their own stories.
“Dati kasi sa Northern Consolidated, seniority so hindi ko mapili yung 14. Dito sa Purefoods noon, nakapili ako. Pinili ko na yung 44 kasi kapangalan ko rin naman si Jerry West,” Codinera told media.
“Maraming nagtatanong si (Robert) Jaworski ba idol mo? Pero lucky number ko talaga yang 7. Pero nung bata pa ako, mahilig akong nagbabasa ng mga horoscope, lucky number 7 kaya yun naging number ko,” added Evangelista.
For Codinera, it was a perfect way to return home.
He’s been away from Purefoods, a team which he played for 11 years, since 1999, the same season where he saw his partnership with long-time teammate Alvin Patrimonio split up after he was traded to Mobiline for Andy Seigle.
“Nagkaroon ako ng goose bumps nung nakita ko yung old Purefoods uniform. Very special day itong day na ito. Buti na lang nagpalit ng pangalan kung hindi hindi kami mari-retire,” Codinera, one of the league’s 25 Greatest Players said.
But for the “Defense Minister” it was also a good way to end a career which started here in 1998.
“Culmination na nabigyan ako ng award ng 25 Greatest Players at the same time, culmination as a Purefoods player,” he added.
Evangelista didn’t play for any other team in nearly 15 years of playing in the PBA.
Since entering the league in 1994, the lefty forward from University of Santo Tomas had fulfilled a dream of playing in the big league, but was surprised that his career lasted for more than a decade.
“Yung dream ko nung maliit pa ako nakuha ko, pero hindi ko ini-expect na magkakaroon ako ng career na almost 15 years sa PBA. Fulfilled naman ako dahil isang team lang pinaglaruan ko – Purefoods,” added Evangelista.