THE spectacular crossover and fancy footwork he displayed during his prime Johnny Abarrientos credit to one thing – dancing.
The retired 5-foot-7 guard bared his background as a dancer is the reason behind the grace he showed on the basketball court, which became the trademark of his colorful 17-year PBA career.
Truth was, Abarrientos, who became a ‘golden boy’ last July 17, was once a professional dancer, being a member of the popular dance group The Knapsacks.
The all-male group competed in such contest as Dance 10 and Eat Bulaga! in the early to late 80s, and would later became regular guests in top-rated variety show programs such as Penthouse Live.
“Nagtuturo kasi ako ng sayaw nung high school ako. Hindi ko alam, pero parang nakatulong talaga siya (sa paglalaro ko),” said Abarrientos, now a deputy coach at Magnolia.
But basketball truly runs in his blood – the ‘Flying A’ being the nephew of former Crispa stalwart Virgilio ‘Haba-Haba’ Abarrientos – that he’ll soon abandon his dancing shoes in favor of playing sneakers.
“Sabi nga nila from ballroom to ballcourt,” said Abarrientos.
The flexibility and poise he displayed on the court, Abarrientos said, obviously had something to do with him being a dancer.
“Malaking bagay yun, yung mga shake n’ bake, mga ganun,” added the Far Eastern University alumnus.
John Cardel, the Terra Firma coach who was a former Alaska teammate of Abarrientos, recalled how most of the team’s backcourt players had a hard time guarding the 1996 league MVP in practice.
“Kapag nagpa-practice nga kami, si Jun Reyes nahihirapan na agad kasi nagbu-buhol-buhol yung paa niya (pag bantay niya si Johnny),” said Cardel, who was picked three rungs after Abarrientos was selected by Alaska at No. 3 overall in the 1993 draft.
Abarrientos went on and established a solid career in the pro league, winning 12 championships and becoming an integral part of Alaska’s 1996 grand slam.
That same year when the Aces completed a season sweep, Abarrientos was adjudged MVP.
By the time he retired in 2010, he was already a six-time Mythical First Team member, a two-time Finals MVP, a Best Player of the Conference awardee, a five-time All-Defensive team, and an eighth-time All-Star.
He was likewise included in the 25 Greatest PBA Players of all time.
Looking back, whenever he would be asked who among the players of today reminds him most about himself, Abarriento' first question is understandable.
“Meron bang marunong sumayaw?” was his casual question.