Sports: Big J: The Legend Lives On
Former Senator and Philippine Basketball Association great Robert ‘Sonny’ Jaworski Sr’s #7 jersey was finally retired during last Sunday’s twinbill at the Smart Araneta Coliseum after a colorful professional league career that spanned 23 seasons (1975-1998).
Also known as the ‘Living Legend’ yet commonly referred to as the ‘Big J’ by fans, Jaworski was a key figure in the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) before joining the PBA in 1975 as a pioneering Toyota franchise player.
While watching the simple rites at the Big Dome at Redskins Sportswear near Mabini Elementary School here in Bacolod City and after hearing the 6:45 Sunday mass at San Sebastian Cathedral, your Sideline Spectator had a glimpse of the jersey retirement program as well as the Ginebra-Petron setto later.
In fact, as a show of respect to ‘Jawo’, the Kings led by import Cedric Bozeman and local boys Enrico Villanueva, Dylan Ababou, Rico Maeirhofer and Mark Caguioa responded to the chants of the raucous crowd by conniving in a close 87-85 come-from-behind win versus their sister team.
It was Bozeman who sank a teardrop of a shot in the closing seconds of the match to break an 85-all standoff and hand the crowd favorites their second straight victory in the semifinals and improve to 7-4 (win-loss). For Petron, it was a sorry loss after leading Ginebra for almost the entire game.
Back to the Big J, Jaworski’s well-known #7 (lucky) jersey was retired in his honor after almost 14 years since he called it quits for Ginebra as a player-coach. He spent nine seasons with the Toyota Super Corollas and the remaining with the La Tondena franchise that owns Ginebra San Miguel.
As a player, he is best remembered for his pesky defense and three-point shooting prowess as well as his no-none sense propensity for leading his team to victory despite the odds, the huge margin of the opposing team and his heroic comebacks particularly for his Anejo/Ginebra team.
In 23 meaningful seasons with the PBA, Jaworski won numerous titles as a player and as a coach with both Toyota and Ginebra aside from bagging the 1978 Most Valuable Player award and being named to the Mythical First Team from 1977 to 1981 and during the 1986 season.
He also led the Philippine men’s basketball team to a silver-medal finish during the 1990 Asian Games behind eventual winner China and for six years (1998-2004), Jaworski was a senator of the country as chairman of the Economic Affairs, Trade and Commerce Committee of the Upper House.
During the eventful rites last Sunday, Jaworski was hailed by no less than PBA Commissioner Chito Salud who said that "no words can capture our love, our respect, our gratitude for you Coach Sonny" in reference to the 66-year old PBA legend’s colorful career in Asia’s oldest professional caging. Well said....
Before I end this piece, let me congratulate the newly elected officers of the Barristers’ Club of UNO-R’s School of Law headed by Rey Cordero and David Dadivas as president and vice president, respectively. Other officers elected were Grace Sealmoy (secretary), Suzi Ann Quinones (treasurer), Diane Fe Tan (auditor), yours truly as business manager and Russel Marvin Olado (PIO).
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