RUMOR: President Marcos, acting on the request of son Bongbong, ordered the old Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) to lift the lifetime ban imposed on Robert Jaworski and Alberto 'Big Boy' Reynoso.
FACTS: One of the darkest pages in the history of Philippine basketball happened during a 1971 MICAA game between Meralco and Crispa, where Robert Jaworski and Alberto 'Big Boy' Reynoso, enraged by what they felt were unfair calls, went after referees Joe Obias and Eriberto Cruz.
According to newspaper accounts of that time, Meralco was trailing Crispa, 50-65, when Reynoso blew his top after getting called for a charging foul on Crispa forward Rudolph Kutch. He soon charged at Cruz and started throwing punches.
Jaworski later joined the fray from the bench as the two mauled Obias before a stunned crowd at the Rizal Coliseum.
"I was there, and it was wild," said Ricky Palou, head of Sports Vision which organizes the Premier Volleyball League (PVL). He was playing for San Miguel at that time.
When the smoke cleared, the two Meralco stars were handed two-year suspensions by the MICAA. The Reddy Kilowatts coach, cage great Lauro Mumar, wasn't spared as he was banned for the rest of the tournament.
However, the BAP, feeling the punishment meted out by the MICAA was 'too lenient,' soon stepped in and, after a meeting among its regional directors, passed a resolution banning Jaworski and Reynoso from basketball for life.
At that time, Jaworski was a fixture in the national team after an impressive career with University of the East. And so was Reynoso, just 6-foot-2 but wide bodied, who was considered one of the top centers in the league.
Because of the ban, the two not only sat out the MICAA games but they also missed the chance to be part of the Philippine team under coach Ignacio 'Ning' Ramos that played in the basketball competition of the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
But just when the careers of the two looked over, the BAP board met and granted them a reprieve.
Rumors at that time claimed no less than President Ferdinand Marcos stepped in and ordered the basketball body to lift the ban. Other versions of the story claimed it was the strongman's son, Bongbong, who interceded on the players' behalf.
So what is true?
Almost five decades later, we talked to Mauricio 'Moying' Martelino, then the secretary-general of the BAP under the term of Lito Puyat. The well-known basketball man is now 85, but his recollection of those events were ultra-sharp.
According to Martelino, it was Presidential Assistant Guillermo 'Gimo' de Vega who called up Puyat to ask about Jaworski and Reynoso's suspension. De Vega was a close aide of Marcos and was often referred to then as the 'little president,' but Martelino said the former made no mention of any order from the President.
"Ang totoong storya d'yan, it was Gimo de Vega who called up Lito Puyat," Martelino said. "Martial Law at that time, at kailangan ng mapaglibangan ng mga tao. And Jaworski was already very popular at that time, pagpasok pa lang ng court, hiyawan na ang mga tao."
Various accounts claimed Malacanang asked that Jaworski and Reynoso be reinstated to strengthen the national team, especially with the Asian Championships (ABC) set to be hosted by Manila in 1973 at the Araneta Coliseum.
"We needed entertainment [at that time]," Martelino added, making no mention of that claim.
Martelino, also the longtime secretary-general of the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC, now Fiba Asia), said Puyat called for a board meeting after the conversation with de Vega and majority of the regional directors agreed that Jaworski and Reynoso 'have suffered enough' and agreed to lift the ban.
Jaworski and Reynoso later became part of the Philippine team that won the Asian championship in 1973 at the Araneta Coliseum - the last national squad of purely homegrown players to win the continental title.
The two also later continued their team-up at Toyota, where Reynoso played three more seasons along with brother Tino before retiring at the end of the 1977 season. The US-based player died on November 24, 2011 at the age of 71.
Jaworski, on the other hand, played until 1997 as playing-coach of the Barangay Ginebra franchise which he helped turn into the most popular in the PBA. At 50, he became the oldest active player to suit up in the league.