EXCEPT for true-blue Barangay Ginebra fans, the name Torraye Braggs may no longer ring a bell.
But he’s someone Rommel Adducul would never ever forget in his PBA career.
The bruising big man was in his sophomore season with the Kings when Braggs came over to reinforce the franchise in the Fiesta Cup Conference during the league’s transitional season in 2004.
Braggs came on board as the Kings’ third import following a slow start to the conference with Rosell Ellis and George Reese. It was the import’s second tour of duty in the PBA following a rather forgettable three-game stint with Coca-Cola in the 2002 Commissioner’s Cup.
With the Kings not performing well even with Braggs around, and San Miguel parading a monster import in Art Long to complement its solid lineup, just about everybody had regarded the Beermen as champions in waiting.
“Pag nakakalaban ang San Miguel, ang laging sinasabi ibigay na 'yang trophy (sa San Miguel), sila na ang magcha-champion,” the now retired Adducul recalled in an episode of PBA Kamustahan.
It didn’t help any that Braggs liked to drink, according to Adducul.
“Naglalasing parati 'yun eliminations pa lang,” the 44-year-old big man, currently deputy coach at Blackwater, said of Braggs, who had a brief stint with the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards in the NBA.
The situation eventually got worse when an intoxicated Braggs earned the ire of then Barangay Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen in practice.
“Pinapauwi na siya ni coach Siot (during practice). Sabi sa kanya, ‘Go home,” related Adducul.
But that proved to be the the turnaround the Kings were waiting for.
“Lasing na lasing siya (Braggs), biglang lumuhod tapos nagdasal,” the 6-foot-6 center out of San Sebastian vividly remembered. “Talagang 360 degrees nag-iba (siya)."
The Kings finished with a losing 7-11 record at the end of the eliminations, but managed nonetheless to sneak into the playoffs.
Ginebra got its act together from there. It eliminated Sta. Lucia in a one-game wildcard phase, and then finished second in its group in the quarterfinals to clinch a semifinals ticket. Top favorite was bumped out at the quarterfinal stage.
In the semis, the Kings beat out Jerald Honeycutt and Talk ‘N Text in a three-game series that went the full route to arrange a finals match-up with Red Bull, reinforced by Best Import Victor Thomas.
But even with Thomas around, the Kings made short work of the Barakos in just four games during the title series to complete one of the unlikeliest championships in league history.
Here are the final moments of that championship run:
The Xavier legend finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds in the title-clinching game for the Kings, who were led by the 26 of Mark Caguioa and 20 from Eric Menk, adjudged as the Finals MVP.
The championship was the first for the Ginebra franchise during the Caguioa-era as the Kings finally broke a seven-year title drought since last winning a crown during the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup under playing-coach Robert Jaworski.
Adducul added 13 points and finally became a PBA champion, thanks in part to Torraye Braggs.
“Ewan ko anong nangyari doon, pero very memorable sa akin yun. Dinala niya (Braggs) kami sa championship,” said Adducul of Barangay Ginebra’s eccentric replacement import.
“Pagdating sa huli kami pa ang nag-champion. I think 'yun very memorable sa akin na hanggang ngayon tini-treasure ko siya.”