The quest for One Big FiveBy Francis Lim |Philippine Daily Inquirer
For collegiate basketball fans, the 75th UAAP Season is upon us.
It is again our chance to show our school pride and relive that old college spirit, which is always fun and meaningful at the same time.
This year, for Blue Eagle fans, we may witness something historic.
The effort required will be herculean, and the task will be daunting—and rightly so—for the enormity of the goal deserves the hugeness of the task.
We have seen teams dominate—the UST Tigers in the early ’90s, the De La Salle Green Archers in the late ’90s to the new millennium—but, save for the fabled UE Red Warriors in the ’60s, teams fall short of the goal of winning five consecutive championships.
The fifth consecutive championship has become the elusive crown jewel of the Great Teams.
The story could not be better if it were written as a Hollywood script.
Ateneo coach Norman Black—the beloved adopted son who has become a pillar in the Ateneo sports community—is in his final ride.
He who brought this great Renaissance in Ateneo basketball bids farewell after this quest for a high five. Indeed, this would be a fitting send-off to, and valedictory of, Coach Norman if achieved.
Greg Slaughter, the dominant 7-footer, has chosen to return for his own swan song despite many lucrative offers to turn professional.
The core members of the fabled Ateneo recruiting class of 2008 are mostly in their final year.
The team boasts of not one, but two “phenoms”—Ryan Buenafe and Kiefer Ravena—both blessed with brilliant basketball IQ and natural abilities.
And the task is of great historic significance. A high five is not just five championships in a row; it is much more than the dominant 85 percent winning percentage during this period; it is more than an unblemished record for the 2008 recruiting class—it is a shot at immortality and chance to be considered as the GOAT (to borrow Muhammad Ali’s famous monicker)—The Greatest Of All Time.
But just as the enormity of the task befits the potential reward, so, too, is the pressure in achieving the same. It will not be easy. The expedition to the Summit is littered with a variety of wildlife-Bulldogs, Tigers, Falcons and Tamaraws; and is fiercely defended by skilled Archers, fabled Warriors and Fighting Maroons.
The competition is expected to be the toughest this year, with teams setting their sights on the prize and the chance to be part of history—as the team that stopped another on its way to the coveted crown jewel. We can expect spectacular seasons from NU’s Bobby Ray Parks, the reigning league MVP; prized rookie Jeron Teng of the Green Archers; his brother Jeric Teng of the Tigers; RR Garcia of the Tamaraws; Alex Nuyles of the Falcons; Mike Silungan of the Maroons; and Chris Javier of the Warriors. They are expected to lead their respective teams against the “five-hungry” core of Slaughter, Salva, Buenafe and Ravena.
On a related note, congratulations are in order to the Sy family of the host National University for unselfishly adding pomp and circumstance to the league. No doubt, they have elevated the Bulldogs to elite status. They are providing a new home for the UAAP in their magnificent world-class arena. Indeed, in sports as in business, there is truly much to learn with this example of how commitment, strong leadership, proactivity and vision can lead to success. Kudos for making a mark in this new field of venture. It is a certainty that the Bulldogs’ time will come—although some say not too soon!
Till then, the Blue Eagles will have to soar way high above the others to pull off the elusive … One Big Five!
(The author is a law professor in the Ateneo Law School. He may be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.)