HANDS down, Alvin Patrimonio is one of the greatest PBA players ever.
In his prime, Patrimonio was an immovable force inside who defined the power forward position, showcasing body strength combined with finesse and a deadly spin move that would forever be his trademark.
In a career that spanned 17 seasons, the man they called ‘Cap’ finished as the league’s No. 3 all-time scorer with 15,091 points and won a total of six championships, all with the Purefoods franchise.
He became just one of three individuals who won the MVP award at least four times, was a 10-time Mythical First Team, three-time Best Player of the Conference, 12-time All-Star, and at one time, was considered as the PBA’s Iron Man for having the most number of consecutive games played at 596 – a record which has since been eclipsed by Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio.
His greatness notwithstanding, Patrimonio acknowledged several players who made life miserable for him during his playing career.
In a rare video call interview in the time of enhanced community quarantine, the 53-year-old cage legend, now a team manager of the Magnolia Hotshots, reflected on the five players who had the most success defending him during his prime.
Patrimonio named them in no particular order.
ABE KING – Patrimonio disclosed the veteran forward was the first player who intimidated him when he finally turned pro in 1988 with Purefoods, recalling how he accidentally hit and broke the nose of the former Toyota star while driving to the basket as a member of the Philippine men’s team that played as a guest ballclub in the PBA.
“Yun talaga ang trauma ko. Nung championship ng Purefoods-Presto (1990 All-Filipino finals), siya ang bumabantay sa akin. Talagang hindi ko nailabas yung pihit ko,” he said.
To his joy and relief, King would become his teammate at Purefoods a few years later.
“Ang ginawa ni coach Chot (Reyes), tinanong niya kasi sino ang bumabantay sa amin ni Jerry (Codinera) na puwedeng kunin ng team? Kaya ang ginawa niya kinuha niya si Kuya Abe," said the former Purefoods superstar.
King became both a stabilizer and a leader to a young Purefoods team, which he helped win two championships before he retired.
“Imagine yung 1993 San Miguel team grabe ang lakas noon. Sobrang lakas ng lineup na yun. Pero dahil nasa amin si Abe, siya yung naging leader namin, siya yung veteran na kung may mang-aano sa amin, siya ang bahala. Para kang nakasandal sa pader,” said Patrimonio
CHITO LOYZAGA – Patrimonio described the Ginebra San Miguel stalwart in two words.
“Malakas [tsaka] malapad,” he said of his main defender at the prime of the Ginebra-Purefoods rivalry in the late 80s up to the 90s.
There was this story just before the 1993 season that Ginebra was interested in signing up Abe King to a contract shortly after Sta. Lucia left him as a free agent after buying the Presto franchise. But Purefoods, wary of King teaming up with Loyzaga to form an imposing Ginebra frontcourt, beat its rival to the draw by tapping the services of the former San Beda star.
CHRIS JACKSON – The Fil-Am forward known as one of the best defensive players in PBA history had been a thorn on the side of Patrimonio during his time with Sta. Lucia and Formula Shell. Even as an amateur, Patrimonio said he already saw the potential of Jackson that he knew he’ll be an asset if and when Purefoods get to draft him.
The Hotdogs did get him as their first-round pick in the 1995 draft. Unfortunately, the team had to trade the 6-foot-4 Jackson to Sta. Lucia for Jack Tanuan.
“Na-trade siya for Jack Tanuan kasi wala kaming back-up kay Jerry (Codinera) that time,” recalled Patrimonio.
“Pero napapanood ko na siya before. Puwede siyang magdala ng bola, once in a while tumitira sa labas although medyo masama nga lang yung porma,” he added. “But nakita ko kasi na may depensa siya, and yun ang primary option ni coach Chot (Reyes)."
Patrimonio could only imagine how formidable Purefoods' defense could've been had Jackson teamd up with Rey Evangelista and Jerry Codinera.
“Puwede naman siya (Jackson) mag-slide sa 4 or 5 (sa Purefoods), ang lakas kasi ng katawan niya,” he said. “Siya yung nagpahirap sa akin sa Sta. Lucia at Shell. Siya yung talagang bumabantay sa akin.”
Incidentally, that 1995 season saw Purefoods finally failing to make the All-Filipino Cup finals for the first time after seven consecutive trips.
“Na-out kami ng Alaska on two free throws by Jeffrey Cariaso,” said Patrimonio.
YVES DIGNADICE – He was one of the role players in a star-studded San Miguel Beer team, but has been a nemesis of Patrimonio on the defensive end.
“Mahaba ang kamay at tsaka mabilis,” he said of the now U.S.-based forward, a former member of the Northern Consolidated Corp. national team who played for San Miguel for a long time and had a short stint with Ginebra San Miguel until retiring in 2000.
YOYOY VILLAMIN – Villamin’s brute force at the low block had him joining Patrimonio’s list of elite defenders.
“Magulang pero malakas talaga,” was how he described the ‘Bicolano Superman,’ a member of the 1983 Crispa grand slam team who later on teamed up with another tough player in Ricky Relosa to form the dreaded ‘Bruise Brothers” of Hills Bros team (Alaska).
Patrimonio said Villamin got his nod over Relosa, who he will remember for one embarrassing incident he did on him inside the court.
“Si Ricky kasi hinubaran ako noon,” he disclosed. “May isang game sa Bicol, pinabayaan niya akong mag-drive. Siyempre i-take advantage ko 'yun. Drive ako sa basket, akala mo nalusutan mo si Ricky Relosa, yun pala may iba pala siyang plano.
“Pag-drive ko, power ako sa ilalim, hinubaran ako. Binaba yung shorts ko, e dati supporter pa ang suot ng players, di ba.”
POSTCRIPT: For the record, four of the players named by Patrimonio to list list were named to the All-Defensive team a combined 24 times, with Dignadice the only one who failed the selection.
Jackson, Villamin, and Loyzaga were named to the team seven times, while King was a three-time member.