IF there is one man who had dished off as much as he received in the 'cheap shots' department, it should be Ramon Fernandez.
Owner of a record 19 PBA championships and four MVP awards, the man dubbed as 'Don Ramon' admitted to Spin.ph how he became the target of attack from opposing teams back in the golden age of the PBA and its 'no harm, no foul' rule.
“Underweight ako nun, tapos ako pa ang madalas go-to guy, kaya ako ang malimit saktan ng mga defenders,” recalled the league legend. "Pero advantage ko rin siguro na manipis ako, matulis din yung siko ko. Kaya nakaka-injection ako sa kanila.
"Nag-iingat silang lumapit."
'The franchise' vividly remembers how he prepared for every game during his PBA career that spanned from the league’s birth in 1975 to 1994. He said that before a game he would often look in the mirror and tell himself, “Be more tough. Don’t let whatever they do get into your nerves."
The Cebu-based pride of Maasin, Leyte has one piece of advice to players at a time when the physicality of play in the pro league has left coaches fuming and players whining.
“Talagang ganyan ang laro. Pag basketball player ka, you just have to be ready for it. The moment na mapikon ka, talo ka,” said Fernandez.
“Kung si Jawo ang sasabihan nila niyan, sasabihan lang sila ng, 'Kung ayaw mong masaktan, mag ballet o mag chess ka na lang," he laughed.
He even bared some of the techniques he gives to his trainees, among them Gregory Slaughter.
“Para hindi nila gawin sa iyo (yung pananakit), kailangang gumanti ka para hindi na sila uulit. Takutan lang yan eh. Kung di ka gaganti, bananatan ka nila ng babanatan. Pero siyempre simplehan yan. Pag napituhan ka, lagot ka," he said.
When asked if he can dominate the PBA now like he did in the early years of the league, Fernandez didn't think twice, saying: “Oo naman. You are only as good as your opposition."