In two weeks, PBA fans will get the opportunity to personally see Ricky Brown, Philippine basketball’s “The Quick Brown Fox” in person again after more than two decades. In the days leading up to his arrival, Ricky has shared with The STAR his innermost sentiments and greatest memories, and what has lit the fire of his wanting to return to his mother country.
It all started innocently enough with his wish to post some old action shots on his Facebook account.
“I just wanted to share some of my memorabilia through Facebook because I knew it would be of interest to some who lived the passion of the PBA during my playing days,” Brown recalls. “But just sharing memorabilia was only the beginning. I soon learned that there was a connection between the fans and myself far and above what I realized. The connection, the relationship, even though it had simmered for two decades, was still very strong and very real, and this touched my heart and inspired me more than you could possibly imagine.”
Through the social network, Brown received an outpouring of admiration and gratitude very few had ever experienced, at times bringing him near tears and revealing the impact he had on people he had never realized he had.
“The connection, the relationship, even though it had simmered for two decades, was still very strong and very real, and this touched my heart and inspired me more than you could possibly imagine,” he confided. “I learned that many who watched me play basketball for nearly 10 years became inspired by not only my work as a player, but also my conduct both on and off the court.”
What stirred Ricky the most was how fans revealed that he was a model to their children of someone who had made a name for himself and contributed to his community even after the lights had gone down on his basketball career.
“It touches the heart when a friend lets me know that they share my story of professional basketball player to educator with their children because they believe it will inspire and motivate them to be successful in whatever they choose to be in life, and that they feel it is important for their children to know who Ricardo Brown is in the history of Philippine basketball,” the principal of Ross Middle School in Cerritos, California shared with this writer. “It is emotionally overwhelming for me when I receive such a message, Bill, and it makes me realize even more how much God has blessed me through the years.”
On his whirlwind return organized by good friend and pillar of Philippine racing Tet Andolong, the 1983 PBA Rookie of the Year has quite a long to-do list, much of it simply reconnecting with people who were responsible for his incredible career and indelible experiences in the Philippines.
“I am anxious to watch a PBA game 22 years later and marvel on how it has changed from the days I so remember of Jaworski and Fernandez. I will get goosebumps when I watch my fellow Filipino-Americans perform on the same court I used to play on,” Brown admits. “I look forward to being in the stands of a college game and experience the excitement I’ve heard and read so much about. And there are some very special people I hope to see once again after so many years: members of my family, Danding Cojuangco, Dolphy Quizon and family, Baby Dalupan, Ron Jacobs, commissioner Salud, my former teammates, and members of the media who became good friends during my days with Great Taste and San Miguel. It will be a very special time for me, and I will savor every moment of it.”
And speaking of savoring moments, Brown shared the four most memorable games of his career, beginning with his debut. Unbeknownst to many, he almost became a Crispa Redmanizer, until draft day came.
“My first game as a PBA player – March, 1983 – Great Taste vs San Miguel. Isn’t it ironic that my initial opponent would become my final PBA team six years and five Championships later,” Brown mused “I was as nervous as a cat – couldn’t sit still in the locker room prior to the game. I even had to excuse myself during a chalk talk to go to the bathroom and throw up. I was very surprised when there were ‘boos’ from the crowd when I was introduced, and several times “Brown, you’re not a Filipino! Go home!” were yelled at me from the stands. We won the game, but I didn’t set the world on fire with my performance, and I think there was a letdown from all of the hype. I’ll always remember team manager, Ignacio ‘IG’ Gotao, telling us all afterward, ‘I’m not convinced.’”
But things did get better. Remember that Crispa and Toyota had been dominant because there was no draft and there was no salary cap in the league’s infancy. Great Taste Coffee soon followed their formula, and the rest is history.
“December, 1984 – third Conference Championship – Deciding Game 5 – GTC vs Crispa. Crispa had beaten us twice the previous year for PBA titles with Import Billy Ray Bates, and while we had tremendous respect for this great team and their tradition, we really believed we were the better team minus Bates,” Brown says. “Whether we actually were or not was up for argument, but we, as a team, believed it anyway. I had great satisfaction in playing well against the team that many often said, “had my number” in 1983. It was different in 1984, and winning this championship against Crispa, which was also our second straight PBA Title, was so gratifying.”
There was a point when Great Taste had won four PBA championships in a row, but the feat did not qualify as a Grand Slam because the titles were split between two calendar years.
“May, 1985 – First Conference Championship – GTC vs Magnolia. I came back to Manila from Los Angeles late in March because of the birth of my first child, Justin. I actually missed a few games,” Brown remembers clearly. “The team struggled a bit without me, but when I returned, everything came into place. GTC was a notch above everyone at this point and we won our third straight PBA title. I put up big numbers in this series, and everyone started to realize just how good this team really was. Excellent team chemistry, passionate fans, exciting individual players, legendary Coach Dalupan at the helm, and everyone on the same page.”
Brown later became a San Miguel Beerman, and joined the powerhouse core of the former Northern Cement Philippine team. That star-studded cast went on a tear, including a rare Grand Slam in 1989. The third championship series of that season was against Añejo. But it came with a personal health challenge to the All-Star point guard.
“I had missed the entire season due to my heart ailment. I was in Los Angeles from January to July in rehab. Many felt I was done and would never play basketball again. That motivated me even more to make it back to the PBA, to San Miguel, and to the fans who wanted me to return to the Ultra,” Brown says. “I got in the best shape of my life through grueling days of work in the gym and running wind sprints every day prior to returning to Manila. Norman Black slowly brought me back into the SMB rotation, and I was able to contribute significantly to the team in the Championship against Sonny Jaworski and Anejo. After the game, while everyone was celebrating the win, I thanked God with all my heart in allowing me to return to experience such a special and wonderful moment.”
These are just some of the priceless memories Ricky Brown is waiting to share with Filipino basketball fans once more.