TWO-time PBA MVP winners James Yap and Danny Ildefonso could not believe they now stand side by side with the ‘Greatest Players’ in the pro league more than a decade since beginning their respective pro careers.
The two were among the latest inclusions in the list of Greatest Players to be cited by the league when it celebrated its 40th anniversary on Wednesday night at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila.
Yap, the face of the Purefoods franchise, said it seemed only yesterday when he started playing basketball in the family backyard in Escalante, Negros Occidental.
The 33-year-old shooting guard admitted never having imagined he would eventually be recognized as one of the league's greatest players.
“Thankful at sobrang blessed talaga ako, Di ko ma-imagine na masasama ako dito,” said the 6-foot-2 Yap, who held basketball’s Living Legend and fellow University of the East alumnus Robert Jaworski Sr. in a tight embrace shortly after being presented as one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players.
On the other hand, Ildefonso, who began his career as a reed-thin big man at National University, never thought he would be able to play for close to two decades and be recognized as one of the greatest in league history.
“Ang daming PBA players na nakapaglaro na sa liga pero ilan lang ang nakapasok dito sa 40 Greatest. Akala ko nga di ako tatagal sa PBA eh, tapos umabot pa ako ng 17 years, so sobrang saya lang talaga,” said the 38-year-old pride of Urdaneta, Pangasinan.
Meantime, league chairman Patrick Gregorio challenged the new inductees to the ‘Greatest Players’ honor roll to continually “take care of the league and treat it as its own.”
“This is not an entitlement. This is a responsibility, for you to continue taking care of the league, for you to continue loving the PBA, and for you to continue loving PBA fans,” said Gregorio, a member of the seven-man selection panel that helped come up with the additional 15 Greatest Players.
All but one of the 15 new additions to the list attended the sports gala.
Aside from Yap and Ildefonso, also in attendance were Willie Miller, Asi Taulava, Eric Menk, Kelly Williams, Jayjay Helterbrand, Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, Arwind Santos, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, Kerby Raymundo, and Chito Loyzaga.
Only Marlou Aquino failed to make it to the event.