THERE is one player who left an indelible mark in his career in the Philippines as far as Andy Thompson in concerned.
His name is Billy Ray Bates.
Aside from being the executive producer of the 10-part documentary, Thompson is also a top brass of NBA Entertainment, the production arm of the league. But before he got into the NBA, Thompson played as an import for Tanduay during the 1986 Open Conference.
In an interview with Republika Huddle podcast of NBA Philippines, Thompson still remembers Bates, who played for Ginebra during that conference. In Thompson’s book, Bates is the best ever in the Philippines.
“There’s nobody that’s going to beat that guy. He was so dominant, it was ridiculous. I don’t know who’s come after him (but) he’s the greatest player ever,” said Thompson.
His playing career in the Philippines left an indelible mark in him even though it was cut short after he was later sidelined due to an ACL injury during that 1986 season.
Thompson played in the Philippines after coming in as a replacement following a slow start to the Open Conference in which the Rhum Masters suffered four straight defeats.
“They won the All-Filipino, they won the 6-4 and under (Reinforced) and they were going for the Open. They were trying for the three-peat,” said Thompson, referring to the grand slam.
The grand slam bid, however, fell short as Tanduay settled for third place with Thompson not able to finish the conference due to the injury.
But Thompson said he still remembers a few of his teammates namely Ramon Fernandez and Freddie Hubalde, a person that helped him spiritually during his foray in the PBA.
“I tried to maintain connections with Ramon Fernandez. Freddie Hubalde was another one of my real close friends. He was a Christian player and at the same time, he gave a lot of spiritual support and I needed that from him. We maintained contact.
“But this was before cellphones. After a while, those phone calls in the Philippines got really expensive. Eventually, after a period of time, I fell out of contact from the guys,” said Thompson.