ANOTHER year has passed, yet Asi Taulava doesn't consider it a step closer to retirement.
Instead he sees it as a step closer to an elusive PBA title.
The ageless wonder of NLEX said he counts every turn of the calendar as another challenge for him to push himself harder in pursuit of his goal: win a PBA crown that has eluded him for the past 12 years.
“I have always dreamt of winning another championship. It’s been years since the last time I held on to that trophy - 13 long years, it’s already equivalent to the length a PBA career for some players,” said Taulava.
Since leading the Mobiline Phone Pals (now Talk 'N Text) to the 2003 Philippine Cup title, where he was named the Finals MVP, a championship has been very elusive for the hard banging many time national team slotman.
The 42-year-old admitted regretting several wasted chances since, looking back at how he was traded by TNT before collecting six titles and leaving Coca-Cola before its memorable trip to the 2012 All-Filipino finals.
“It was sort of a frustration for me. You know, I left Talk 'N Text before they went on a championship rampage, then I was traded by Coke to Meralco shortly before they played the Texters in the finals of the 2012 All-Filipino Cup,” he said.
His latest pursuit of a championship with NLEX ended in the quarterfinal stage against TNT, but the 6-9 slotman is not giving up, saying the Road Warriors are two to three pieces away from being a title contender.
“We’ve learned from our failures in the past. I am with a new team. The fact that we managed to atleast improve every conference is one positive sign for me,” said the 2003 PBA MVP.
With the mileage piling up and opportunities dwindling, doesn't he prefer being traded to a championship contender like, say, TNT so he can get closer to his dream, Taulava was asked.
“That’s not for me to answer. I don’t know the answer to that question. Next question please,” he said laughing.
But the good thing is, the pro league's oldest player has aged like wine.
In the last Philippine Cup campaign, Taulava remained one of the most league's most dominant players as he averaged 19.92 points, 11.75 rebounds and 2.25 assists in 33.58 minutes of action.
Taulava’s former mentor at Air21, Franz Pumaren, said Taulava deserves a spot in the record books as the only 42-plus player who still plays long minutes and provides major contributions every game.
“Imagine Asi, he’s 42 years old. This coming March, he’ll be 43. Do you see him slow down? Do you see him play his age?” said Pumaren, the coach Taulava credits for the revival of his PBA career.
“He can still run the floor, he’s not even afraid to bang bodies with younger players, not minding the fact that he might break his brittle bones, if he has some. Asi is a disciplined player, he’s a legend,” he added.
Asked if he is entertaining thoughts of breaking the record of Robert Jaworski, who is listed as the oldest to see action in the pro league at 53, Taulava shook his head.
“I am not after matching or eclipsing other people’s record. I am here to reach for my own goal. And that is to win another championship. As long as I can still feel my body reacting to what my mind wants to achieve, I’ll still lace up those shoes and wear my jersey,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, Jaworski is one of my idols. If it comes to the point that I match his record and make myself listed in the annals side by side his name, so be it. But right now, I’m on a personal mission,” he said.