With PBA’s (Philippine Basketball Association) 37th season, we already saw a lot of good and even the best point guards in the league.
InterAKTV list the Top 10 Point Guards in PBA History. Do you agree to this list?
Before rounding down the top 10, let’s also recognize the honorable mentions:
“The General” was the PBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1980, starting at point guard for the pre-Robert Jaworski era Gilbey’s Gin. He was displaced from the team after Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz joined the franchise that eventually became Ginebra. Generalao enjoyed a lot of success at the helm of powerhouse Tanduay teams in the mid ’80s.
A second-round pick by Presto, Esplana stole the spotlight from his teammate, top pick Apet Jao, to win that season’s Rookie of the Year award. He was starting point guard for three different franchises: Presto, Sta. Lucia, and Shell, two of which he helped to an All-Filipino championship.
“The Mighty Mite” was one of the most fearsome small men to ever step foot on the PBA court. He led San Miguel to an upset of Crispa in the 1982 Open Conference en route to winning the Rookie of the Year plum. He would have been higher up on the list had injuries slow him down in the latter part of his career.
10. OLSEN RACELA
It’s hard to fathom now, but Racela almost didn’t make it to the PBA. He was drafted in the second round by Coney Island in 1993, and was signed by Chot Reyes to serve as just a practice player. Several days before the start of the season, the team’s third-string point guard Rudy Enterina signed with Ginebra, opening up a spot for the former Ateneo point guard.
Rah-Rah Racela stole minutes with his hustle play, but never stopped improving his game. He transformed from a bit player into one of the league’s headiest floor generals after his transfer to San Miguel in 1997. He left the game not just as one of the league’s best point guards, but one of its most beloved players.
9. DINDO PUMAREN
Because he spent most of his playing years in the shadows of superstars Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codiñera, Dindo Pumaren has had an underrated PBA career. After being an all-around superstar with La Salle in college, he transformed himself into the quintessential pass-first, defensive point guard in the pros. He ranks third in the PBA all-time assists list behind just Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez, and fifth all-time in steals.
8. BERNIE FABIOSA
One of the PBA’s first “pure” point guards, Bernie Fabiosa was nicknamed “Tough Job,” an apt description for a guy who had to guard guys like Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz on defense, while rationing the ball to Crispa’s cadre of shooters on offense. Even though his statistics did not exactly glow, everyone who knew basketball also knew that Fabiosa was the engine that drove the Redmanizers’ attack.
7. RONNIE MAGSANOC
Before Ronnie Magsanoc, PBA point guards shot three-pointers, but they did not rain three-pointers. His 1990 season ranks among the best seasons of a point guard in league history; at one point during the All-Filipino conference, he was averaging 29.7 points and 9.3 assists per game on 47.3% shooting from the three-point line. Read those numbers again.
Sure, the game was much faster then and had more possessions, and featured less sophisticated defense, but still.
Injuries slowed him down over the next decade, and Magsanoc never duplicated that brilliance again. But for those who saw the “Point Laureate” in his prime, it was pure poetry.
6. JAYAY HELTERBRAND
In 2009, Helterbrand became the first point guard since Johnny Abarrientos to win the league’s highest honors. Fittingly, it came during the season that his backcourt buddy Mark Caguioa missed. Helterbrand put the team on his back and put together one of the finest performances for an undermanned Ginebra franchise, which narrowly lost in the 2009 Fiesta Conference to sister team San Miguel.
Helterbrand injured himself in that finals series, and one could argue that he has never been the same since. But his efforts that year were enough to etch his name into the record books forever.
5. JIMMY ALAPAG
People may question his Most Valuable Player award last season, but no one can question the size of the heart of “The Mighty Mouse”. He made a splash in 2003, winning Rookie of the Year honors after shockingly falling to the 10th spot in the draft, and has been the league’s best point guard for the better part of the decade. Age may have slowed him down, but he remains the heart and soul of a Talk ‘N Text team that has won the PBA title in three of the last four tournaments.
4. HECTOR CALMA
His numbers may be modest, but Hector Calma remains the epitome of pure Philippine point guard play. Fans who remember his heyday still speak in hushed tones about how “The Director” can control games without taking a single shot, how he can dominate the game with his mind rather than his body. His professional career was relatively short, considering he was already 26 years old when he joined Magnolia in 1986 — but his impact on the PBA can still be felt to this day.
3. JOHNNY ABARRIENTOS
“The Flying A” is perhaps the most dominant small man the PBA has ever seen. He was engine of the mid-’90s Alaska dynasty, becoming the smallest recipient of the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1996. Never before had a man listed generously at 5-foot-7 struck such fear in the hearts of opponents.
When the Aces gave up on him, he continued his winning ways with the Coca-Cola Tigers and the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. His quickness is still the stuff of legends — he is the PBA’s all-time leader in steals — and his passing ain’t too shabby either, as he is fourth in the all-time list.
2. RICKY BROWN
As the first Filipino-American PBA star, Ricky Brown helped usher in a new generation of players to take over the league’s pioneers. As a big, quick guard with hot outside shooting hands, he helped transform guard play in the PBA and upped the level of the game. He retired abruptly after the 1989 season, but not before winning the 1983 Rookie of the Year award and the 1985 Most Valuable Player trophy.
His 23.1 points per game average is still the best in the history of the league, as is his 7.3 assists per game norm.
1. ROBERT JAWORSKI
He remains the PBA’s all-time leader in assists. As a guard, he is sixth all-time in rebounds. He is third in PBA history in most games played, which becomes more impressive when you consider the fact that he was already 29 years old when the league played its first game in 1975.
In 1978, he won the Most Valuable Player plum by posting perhaps the finest individual season in league history. He averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game en route to leading Toyota to two titles. He was the team’s leading local rebounder despite having superstar center Mon Fernandez on his team, and did it when the PBA did not impose a height limit on imports.
In 1988, at the tender age of 42 years old, he scored 28 points for Añejo in a game-clinching victory in the All-Filipino conference over Purefoods.
Put it this way: the PBA will probably see another dominant small man like Johnny Abarrientos and a complete Filipino-American guard like Ricky Brown. But there will never, ever be another Robert Jaworski.