Philippine basketball legend Antonio “Tony” Genato is immensely grateful as Valenzuela City has honored him by raising his jersey to the rafters as well as unveiling a marker in honor of him in Bahay Alamat.
The 91-year-old was part of the Filipino cage team that won bronze in the 1954 FIBA World Championship. He graced Sunday’s virtual ceremony, led by Valenzuela City 2nd District Representative Eric Martinez.
“I thank you also, Congressman, for your dedication and my gratitude for your interest in basketball. Thank you,” said Genato.
Genato served as the team captain of that Philippine team in the World Championship — now known as the FIBA World Cup — in Rio De Janeiro. Their third-place finish remains the highest-ever by an Asian country.
The only known living member of that team, Genato still vividly remembers his team’s campaign in that tournament, which perennial powerhouse United States eventually dominated.
The Filipinos faced the gold medalists in the final round — a single round-robin among eight teams. They even led them approaching the final quarter, but the Americans eventually won, 56-43.
“As far as we’re concerned, every team was afraid of the Philippines. They saw our potential and we knew what basketball was all about,” Genato said.
“Even the US was afraid of the Philippines.”
Besides being a FIBA Worlds bronze medalist, Genato is also a two-time Olympian. He played in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, then the 1956 edition held in Melbourne.
Genato, a product of both San Beda College and University of Santo Tomas, joined the storied YCO Painters in 1952. The pint-sized guard decided to retire seven years later at the age of 30.
He then ventured into coaching, manning the sidelines of Great Taste during the team’s early years in the Philippine Basketball Association. Great Taste was among the founding members of Asia’s first pro league.
Meanwhile, Martinez, who is also the chair of the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development, said that Bahay Alamat will enshrine the great Caloy Loyzaga and the 1954 squad by October.
“For us, it is important that we have a sense of history in the game of basketball,” Martinez said.
“And he’s [Loyzaga] the greatest, so we really have to prepare well for that.”
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