WITHOUT trying to spoil the party, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) great Fortunato ‘Atoy’ Co insisted he believed active players should not have been included in the league’s list of '40 Greatest Players' of all time.
One of the greatest shooters ever to have come out of Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, Co stressed there were many retired players who he felt should have made the new list of 15 additions to be feted when the PBA celebrates its 40th year on Wednesday at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre Resorts World Manila.
Co, a member of the first 25 Greatest Players named by the league, cited former teammates Abe King and the late Arnie Tuadles, along with Nelson ‘The Bull’ Asaytono as among several former stars who he felt were ‘overlooked’ by selectors led by Robert Jaworski.
He said 11 active players in the list of 15 inductees should have been honored instead during the golden anniversary of the PBA 10 years from now.
“In my opinion, yung mga naglalaro pa na sinama, tingin ko dapat hindi pa because I think there are more players na deserving to be there na retired na,” the 63-year-old former Crispa hotshot bared to Spin.ph on Tuesday.
Co said he has nothing against those still playing who were made part of the list, but thought King and Co. should have been there ahead of them.
“Abe King should be there, Nelson Asaytono, and Arnie Tuadles should also be there (in the 40 Greatest Players list),” he added.
Two-time MVP winners Danny Ildefonso, Willie Miller and James Yap lead the 15 new players added to the list.
One-time MVP awardees Asi Taulava, Eric Menk, Kelly Williams, Jayjay Helterbrand, Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, and Arwind Santos also cracked the elite roster, along with Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, Kerby Raymundo, Chito Loyzaga, and Marlou Aquino.
Ildefonso, Miller, Yap, Taulava, Menk, Williams, Helterbrand, Caguioa, Santos, Castro, and Pingris are still active players, although under the criteria made by the selection panel, all MVPs were seeded in the list.
That hasn't changed the mind of Co.
“I think there are more players na deserving to be there na retired na (40 Greatest Players), pero naisama nila 'yung mga current (players) because they are MVPs,” said Co, best remembered for his fadeaway jumpers during his playing days.
“But in my own opinion, sana pinag-retire na muna sila (11 active players), then that’s the time sinama na sila dun kasi parang sinabi mo, ‘40th Greatest ka na, dapat retired ka na, tama na yan.'”
Currently the head coach of Mapua, Co said he remains unsure if he will attend the league’s 40-year anniversary celebration on Wednesday.
For his part, Ildefonso said he’s honored to be part of the league’s elite list of Greatest Players, but wished former San Miguel teammates Asaytono, Olsen Racela, and Danny Seigle were able to join him.
The 38-year-old Ildefonso noted Asaytono, a 10-time All-Star who won two Best Player awards, was the Beermen’s top gunner at a time when he was among the most dominant scorers in the league.
“Mga two years ko siya (Asaytono) kasama sa San Miguel. Madami akong natutunan sa kanya on and off the court,” the big man out of National University said.
“Nagtaka nga ako bakit di siya kasama. Saka sa totoo lang naman, nag-MVP pa dapat siya and, kung scoring-scoring lang, nandun siya sa itaas,” added Ildefonso, who now plays for Meralco.
Ildefonso admitted not being familiar with the criteria used for naming the 15 new inductees other than the MVPs being outright selections.
Still, he believes Asaytono, Racela, and Seigle’s contribution to the league were too significant to be ignored.
“Opiniyon ko lang naman, eh ang laki ng naiambag nila (Asaytono and Co.) sa PBA sa panahon nila. Saka ang daming mga fans na nagpupunta dahil sa kanila,” said Ildefonso, a five-time Best Player of the Conference awardee.