CAGE legend Jojo Lastimosa can’t help but look back and reminisce on Sunday when he returned to where his stellar PBA career had its beginning.
As the crowd thinned and the lights dimmed inside the Philsports Arena, Lastimosa took one quick glance at the greying surroundings as he surveyed the once popular playing venue formerly called ULTRA.
In a flash, an overload of memories – mostly good ones – came flashing back.
“Yeah, it brings back a lot of memories,” said Jolas, now 51, shortly after the Road Warriors’ game in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup, the first in a four-playdate stretch when the league holds its matches at its former home in Pasig which first opened to the public in 1985.
Lastimosa said he told the NLEX players about the place being where he first won a league championship in 1990 as part of Purefoods’ deadly trio of four-time MVP Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codinera.
“Kinuwento ko nga sa mga players nung nag-practice kami (dito) last Thursday na ‘yung first championship ko dito,” said Lastimosa, now an assistant coach at NLEX.
Also not lost on Lastimosa was the memorable inaugural All-Star game pitting the Veterans against the Rookies/Sophomores.
Although Jolas and the rest of the young guns lost the game, 132-130, he well remembered the moment for the iconic winning play pulled off by former Toyota teammates turned bitter rivals Sonny Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez.
“That was the time Ramon and Jaworski played for the first time as teammates since Toyota,” recalled Lastimosa of the 1989 spectacle. “Naipanalo ni Ramon yung game after making his shot from an assist by Jaworski.”
Also not lost on Lastimosa were several unforgettable on-court fights including the free-for-all that marred the game between Ginebra and Presto during his rookie year in 1988.
“So I have a lot of really good memories dito sa Ultra,” said the Cagayan de Oro native, who played 15 seasons from 1988-2002 and had career averages of 15.3 points and 2.8 assists in 789 games.
Of course, there were also some painful ones.
“Lahat ng natalo ko na championship before winning in 1990, dito rin lahat,” noted the eight-time All-Star as Purefoods lost in four finals from 1988 to 1990 until finally winning a breakthrough title in the Third Conference of the season when the Hotdogs rallied from an 0-2 series deficit to beat a young Tim Cone and the Alaska Milkmen.
That first championship naturally ranks up there in Lastimosa’s Ultra memory bank.
“I think winning the first one (was the most memorable). It was my last conference (with Purefoods), before I was traded the following year (to Alaska),” recalled the former Rookie of the Year and member of the league’s 25 Greatest Players.
Ironically, NLEX faced Star (formerly Purefoods) on this night when Lastimosa found himself trooping back to the once lively Pasig venue.
The Road Warriors dropped a 97-95 heartbreaker to the Hotshots after they failed to call a timeout in the final eight seconds and Star just ahead by a single point.
A three-time Mythical First Team, Lastimosa smiled at the notion Star had 'homecourt advantage' over NLEX.
“They should feel right at home dito sa Ultra kung saan nanalo ang Purefoods (ng championship) in 1990,” he said grinning. “I know iba na yung pangalan nila, but we know na Purefoods pa rin naman ang mga yun.”