AFTER coming close the past five seasons but each time falling short, Petron forward Arwind Santos finally won the PBA's highest individual award on Friday night.
The 32-year-old Santos won his very first league MVP trophy on Friday, beating out Barangay Ginebra's LA Tenorio and Talk 'N Text guard Jason Castro for the honor during the PBA Annual Leo Awards at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Nicknamed the 'Spiderman,' the 6-4 Santos totaled 2840 points in the balloting as the second overall pick by Air21 in 2006 added the MVP trophy to the Governors Cup Best Player award he won just days earlier.
Tenorio finished just 22 points behind (2819) to make it one of the closest ever fights for the MVP trophy.
But Santos gained headway for the highly-coveted award after earning 1426 statistical points and receiving 993 votes from the media as compared to Tenorio’s 1318 statistics and 917 media votes.
The Petron star’s big margin in statistics and media easily negated Tenorio’s advantages in both the votes among fellow players, 284-271, and Commissioner’s Office, 300-150.
Teary-eyed upon accepting the MVP trophy from commissioner Chito Salud, Santos knelt down at midcourt, before raising the individual hardware before wildly-cheering Petron fans inside the venue.
“Maraming tao po akong gustong pasalamatan, gaya ng Petron management, sila boss Ramon Ang (San Mig Corp. big boss), boss Robert (Non, league chairman), mga teammates, ko at saka mga fans na sumusuporta sa amin,” said the soft-spoken native of Pampanga during his brief thank you speech.
Santos became just the fourth player in league history to win the MVP, and be included in both the Mythical First Team and the All-Defensive team in the same season.
Santos later recalled how winning the MVP was a dream come true for him after going through hardships during his growing up years in Pampanga.
“Ikukuwento ko na rin sa inyo na doon sa lugar namin, lumaki po ako sa hirap. Nagbabakal at nagbebenta po ako ng bote, nag-car wash, kahit ano ginawa ko na para lang makatulong sa pamilya kaya itong manalo po ako, sana ma-inspire ko kayo,” shared Santos, while trying to compose himself.
Joining Santos, Tenorio, and Castro in the Mythical First team were Alaska forward Calvin Abueva, earlier named Rookie of the Year, and Talk ‘N Text forward Ranidel de Ocampo.
The Mythical second team on the other hand, included San Mig’s Marc Pingris, Petron rookie center June Mar Fajardo, Alaska’s Sonny Thoss and Cyrus Baguio, and Alex Cabagnot also of Petron.
Air21 forward Nino Canaleta was named the Most Improved Player for the season, while Alaska’s sophomore guard JV Casio won the Sportsmanship Award.
Santos and Pingris were named to their seventh and sixth all-defensive team citations, respectively, along with Thoss, Petron’s Marcio Lassiter, and Rain or Shine’s Gabe Norwood.