Rafi Reavis looks back at Coca-Cola title conquest in PBA's first-ever Christmas Day game
Rafi Reavis sits out Magnolia's game against Ginebra on Monday due to injury. Jerome Ascano

BOCAUE – Christmas Day games will always be close to Rafi Reavis’ heart.

The lanky Magnolia veteran won the first of his 10 PBA championships on this special day 15 years ago as part of the league’s first-ever game played on Christmas.

Back then, Reavis was a rookie big man for Coca-Cola, which defeated Alaska, 78-63, in Game Four of the short best-of-five finals to win the 2002 All-Filipino title at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

To this day, Reavis, 40, remains the only active player to have suited up in that maiden Christmas Day offering staged by the league.

He has fond memories of it which he’ll treasure for a lifetime.

“That’s a very memorable moment. I will never forget it,” said Reavis as he recalled the experience to SPIN.ph following Magnolia’s 89-78 loss to Barangay Ginebra Monday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Philippine Arena here.

“If I’m not mistaken, that’s my first championship in the PBA, and to win it on Christmas Day, that’s just awesome, a super great experience.”

Reavis finished with 12 points in the deciding game, including three three-pointers in a telling third quarter run when the Tigers finally took control on the way to wrapping up the championship right on Coca-Cola’s maiden season in the league.

The Fil-Am from New York remembered feeling restless on the eve of the championship.

“I will tell you something. The night before the game, I don’t think I slept. I think I went to sleep around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.,” he said. “I didn’t sleep at all, so I don’t know where I got that energy for the game. I was just so hyped and all pumped up.”

Reavis’ recollection of that momentous event came as his former Coke teammate Rudy Hatfield posted on Twitter (@RudyHatfield99) the championship ring management gave each player after accomplishing the feat as the ‘first ever team to win a championship in its first season in the PBA.

Apart from Reavis and Hatfield, who was adjudged as the Finals MVP, others in the team mentored by Chot Reyes, were Poch Juinio, Will Antonio, Ato Morano, Leo Avenido, Jojo Manalo, Freddie Abuda, Jeff Cariaso, and Johnny Abarrientos. Cariaso and Abarrientos missed most of the playoffs due to injuries.

“That was a great team.  My teammates, we enjoy each other’s company, we have a great core of guys, and an awesome coach,” said Reavis in describing the Tigers.

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“That was a very fond moment, very exciting. I have a lot of pictures of that memory from that time.”

Reavis won one more title with Coke until he left the team in 2006 when he was traded to Barangay Ginebra and later, to the Purefoods franchise, where he claimed the eight career championships combined.

But that first ever championship will always be the most memorable for him once he looks back on his entire pro career.

“We just had a blast that year and to end that conference with the championship on Christmas Day, what more can you asked for,” Reavis stressed.

“That’s one of the best gifts ever I had in my life.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos