The red carpet rolls out for the country’s hoop legends as the National Basketball Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc., stages its third enshrinement ceremonies at the Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati tonight.
Once more, Bukidnon Gov. and Hall of Fame moving spirit Jose Zubiri is hosting the rites. A former La Salle and Ysmael Steel player, Zubiri has made it a personal commitment to honor the greatest Filipino cagers and spares no expense, digging into his own pockets, in organizing the induction rites as the Hall of Fame executive director.
In 1999, the first Hall of Fame batch was inducted. The pioneer class was made up of Carlos Loyzaga, Ambrosio Padilla, Fely and Gabby Fajardo, Charlie Borck, Tony Genato, Jacinto Ciria-Cruz, Primitivo Martinez, Ramoncito Campos, Ed Ocampo, and Narciso Bernardo. Additionally, the Hall honored seven individuals with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contributions to the sport–Don Manolo Elizalde, Leo Prieto, Danny Floro, Col. Julian Malonso, Herminio Silva, Chito Calvo and Lito Puyat.
A year later, the Hall welcomed four more inductees–Rafael Hechanova, Lauro Mumar, Antonio Martinez, and Francisco Vestil. There were 29 nominees in the original list. The candidates were later pruned to 15 then nine before the final selection was made. Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to Tito Eduque and Baby Dalupan.
Under the Foundation’s guidelines, each nominee must have been retired at least 10 years, must have been an outstanding player, and must be of good moral character.
For this year’s induction, the Foundation received an initial list of 53 nominees, including Sen. Robert Jaworski and four-time PBA MVP Ramon Fernandez.
Jaworski and Fernandez, however, were not qualified because of the retirement provision. The Big J never officially retired and played his last PBA game for Gordon’s Gin on May 25, 1997, during the First Conference finals. El Presidente played his last PBA game for San Miguel Beer on Aug. 21, 1994, during the Second Conference semifinals. Fernandez will be eligible in 2005 or 10 years after his retirement. Jaworski will be eligible in 2008–assuming he doesn’t decide to make a comeback.
From 53, the list was cut to 24 then to 11 before finally, the Foundation decided to enshrine seven cage heroes–Mariano Tolentino, Eddie Lim, Kurt Bachmann, Alfonso (Boy) Marquez, Carlos Badion, Geronimo Cruz, and Loreto Carbonell. It wasn’t easy picking the Magnificent 7– as it wasn’t easy choosing the 11 in 1999 and the four the next year. Narrowly missing the cutoff were Eddie Decena, Luis (Moro) Lorenzo, Manolet Araneta, and Francisco Rabat. Other nominees included Luis Tabuena, William Adornado, Fortunato Co, Eddie Pacheco, Adriano Papa, Pons Saldana, Orly Bauzon, Jimmy Mariano, and Rafael Barretto.
A two-time Olympian, Tolentino was known for his skill, discipline, dedication, and ceiling (at 6-2, he was among the tallest Filipino cagers in his heyday). He played on the national team that took third place at the 1954 World Championships in Brazil. Tolentino, a Caviteño, also played on three Asian Games gold medal squads. He died in 1998 after a heart attack.
Lim, another two-time Olympian, played on two Asian Games gold medal teams in 1954 and 1958. He saw action for the Philippine selection that finished ninth at the World Championships in Chile in 1959. A hard-nosed guard, Lim led San Beda to back-to-back NCAA titles as a collegian. After hanging up his sneakers, Lim went on to become a successful businessman, chairman of the Makati Stock Exchange, and since 1995, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Stock Exchange. Lim died of cancer this year.
Bachmann, who turns 66 in two weeks, played on two Asian Games gold medal teams in 1958 and 1962. He suited up for the national team at the 1959 World Championships in Chile and the 1960 Rome Olympics. Mr. Hookshot led La Salle to the 1955 NCAA title and was a two-time MVP of the collegiate circuit. In 1960, Bachmann hit the marginal shot in the last five seconds to lift Yco to its seventh straight national championship.
Legend has it that when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was 11 years old, he saw Bachmann during a national team exhibition in the US en route to the World Championships in Chile in 1959. Kareem, then known as Lew Alcindor, noticed Bachmann’s hookshot and developed his own version which later became his trademark. In 1996, Bachmann was enshrined in the La Salle Sports Hall of Fame.
Marquez, a Zamboangueño, played in three Olympics and was a stalwart in Ysmael Steel’s six national title squads. At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Marquez and another Hall of Famer Ed Ocampo took turns in shackling Shin Dong Pa as the Philippines beat South Korea, 63-60. Marquez shot 18 points and Shin, 16.
Badion, called the "Bad Boy" of hoops because of his unforgiving and physical defense, was named MVP of the first Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) championships which the Philippines ruled in 1960. He played in two Olympics and starred for the national squad that captured the gold medal at the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games. Badion, who popularized the bicycle drive and the jackknife layup, was voted Mr. Basketball by the Philippine Sportswriters Association in 1957. He died a month ago of a heart attack.
Cruz was a star wherever he played. As a UAAP rookie, he powered Far Eastern University to the league crown. With Cruz in the lineup, Ysmael Steel collected four MICAA and six National Open championships from 1956 to 1964. He played on the national squad that took the gold medal at the Asian Games in 1958 and 1962. Cruz also starred on the Philippine team that topped the ABC tournament in Taipei in 1963. Not too many fans know that Cruz was recruited by University of San Francisco coach Phil Woolpert to play in the US NCAA in 1959.
Carbonell, 69, learned the basics of basketball from Jesuit priests in Davao. He was a scorching scorer for San Beda and hit 46 points in a 1955 NCAA game. Carbonell played at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the 1958 Asian Games (where the Philippines won gold), the 1959 World Championships in Chile, and the 1960 ABC championships.
The Magnificent 7 will be appropriately honored for their accomplishments and exploits as hardcourt heroes tonight.
The National Basketball Hall of Fame Foundation Board of Trustees is made up of Manuel Lopez as chairman, Fernando Zobel de Ayala as vice chairman, Hechanova, Teddy Benigno, Emilio Bernardino Jr., Dalupan, Carlos Velez, and Zubiri. Lim was formerly treasurer and Eduque, secretary.