PUERTO PRINCESA – Once a dunker, always a dunker.
After watching from courtside the latest Slam Dunk contest of the PBA All-Stars, five-time champion KG Canaleta admitted feeling a sudden itch to compete in the side event once again.
“Babalik ako next year. Paghahandaan ko 'yan,” Canaleta told Spin.ph just before departing for Manila following the conclusion of the All-Star weekend here.
Canaleta personally documented the slam competition featuring the league’s new breed of slam dunkers led by Rey Guevarra, who won the contest for the second straight year.
The high-flying forward minced no words about how he missed competing in the side event which he has dominated like no other player in the league.
“Sa totoo lang, naiinggit ako pag nanonood ako ng event na ito. Ito kasi ang favorite ko eh. Saka dito ako nakilala,” said the pride of Gerona, Tarlac.
The high-flying forward of NLEX initially contemplated on joining the slam dunk contest this season, but begged off at the last minute owing to a knee injury.
But he did see action in the three-point shootout, although he failed to make it to the finals of the event which Terrence Romeo won.
“Gusto ko talagang sumali ulit. Kasi nakita ko nagbalikan lahat ng mga dating champions tulad nila James (Yap) at Jimmy Alapag sa three point shoot-out.
"Kaso ayaw ko isakripisyo ang health ko, may dalawang crucial games pa kami next week,” said the 33-year old streak shooting forward dubbed as ‘Da Vinci of Dunk’, referring to the Road Warriors upcoming games in the Commissioner’s Cup.
But he sees Guevarra as a worthy adversary, a dunker who is creative and is blessed with a high vertical leap.
“Mabigat na kalaban si Rey. Bata saka very creative tapos iba pa ang leaping ability niya,” said Canaleta, who took an early morning flight to Manila with teammates Jonas Villanueva and Simon Atkins to immediately join NLEX at practice.
“Tapos hindi lang naman si Rey ang titignan mo dyan eh. Yung (Justin) Melton, tiyak ko babalik next year 'yun tapos may Japeth Aguilar ka pa at Chris Ellis, so mabigat talaga ang challenge,” said Canaleta, who reigned as ‘Sultan of Slam’ in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012.
Canaleta also found time to tease fellow veterans who lost in the Skills Challenge against their younger opponents.
“Nag-aasaran nga kami sa bus eh. Sabi namin: ‘Tinalo ng mga bata ang matatanda.’ Ang kukulit eh,” said the ever jolly player, obviously referring to Yap who lost to Romeo in the three-point shootout and Villanueva who proved no match to Jeric Fortuna in the Obstacle Challenge.
Guevarra, meanwhile, said it would be an honor to compete against Canaleta in the slam dunk contest.
“Syempre, karangalan ko po na makalaban si Kuya KG. Dahil pag nakatapat mo na ang five-time champion, ibig sabihin nun mas ibang level na ang laban,” said the soft-spoken forward of Meralco.
“If ever po na sasali siya next year, at kasali ulit ako para magdepensa (ng title), siguro mas lalo ko hahabaan ang preparasyon ko.”
Melton, co-champion with Guevarra during the 2014 contest, is also thrilled to hear about Canaleta contemplating on a comeback next year.
“That will be very interesting. I’ve seen his videos and he’s good,” said Melton, who at 5-foot-9 can jump to as high as 11 feet and 4 inches.