AS he freshened up to change from his beer-soaked red jersey and black championship shirt, Marcio Lassiter emerged from the San Miguel Beer dugout wearing a white shirt, embedded in which was the iconic photo of Muhammad Ali standing over a knocked-down Sonny Liston in their 1965 rematch.
Like how Ali knocked out Liston right in the first round for his second straight win over the former champion, San Miguel Beer did somehow the same thing to Barangay Ginebra, finishing the Gin Kings off in five games in their PBA Philippine Cup Finals series.
It could’ve been a sweep had the Beermen completed their monumental comeback from 26 points down in Game Two where they dragged the Gin Kings to an extra session before losing by just six points even without June Mar Fajardo and Lassiter down the stretch.
Lassiter, however, insisted he wasn’t trying to make a statement with the shirt he wore after the Beermen closed the series with a 91-85 win in Game Five on Sunday night.
“I was gearing up for Thrilla in Manila or something,” Lassiter started to explain about his shirt, referring to Ali’s fight against Joe Frazier also at the Big Dome. “This shirt is just one of my favorites, it just gets me going. It's for me.”
“No (shade), not at all. Definitely not. Definitely no shade,” he was quick to add. “Ginebra played a great series. They're always in it, every game, they made us fight for this championship, so we didn't get it easily, they made it tough on us.”
After all, the Gin Kings refused to go down without a fight in the title-clinching game, mounting on a late rally that just fell short.
When the Beermen finally won it, Lassiter, though, couldn’t help but dust off what has become his trademark “Sol-t Bae” gesture during the dugout celebration, then granting fans’ photo requests while holding up his hand again like what he did after knocking down a triple over Sol Mercado in Game Two that led to him getting called for taunting and his ejection.
Still, the Filipino-American cager insisted it wasn’t to disrespect the Gin Kings.
“Yeah, I had to get it (gesture) out,” Lassiter said. “That was for the Finals. That was for the fans. I think the fans requested it, they loved it, so that's just for the fans. I didn't want them to feel left out.”
“Just to have fun, I mean, I'm never really pouring salt on anybody, but I think it's a cool gesture,” he added. “All fun. No shade, no disrespect. We're just here to have fun, and it's cool to see.”
Lassiter and the rest of the Beermen certainly had reason to celebrate as they became only the second team to take home the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy for good.
Lassiter did a Chris Ross as the SMB sniper also shone on both ends in Game Five, tallying 12 points, three blocks, and one steal, along with two boards and two assists in 40 minutes.
“This team, we always knew that we can do it, and sacrifice,” Lassiter said. “If we weren't able to sacrifice, we wouldn't get to this position.”
Now, the Beermen try to go for back-to-back titles in the Commissioner’s Cup – and maybe in the Governors’ Cup as well for a grand slam.
“We'll see, but I love the challenge,” Lassiter said. “I feel like it's a big challenge for us. I'm definitely ready for it, and all the players are.”