PUREFOODS’ run of four straight championships and its quest for a fifth one has obviously drawn comparison with the fabled Crispa Redmanizers, the most dominant franchise in the PBA's early years.
Yet despite what the Hotshots had accomplished over the past few years, a key member of the legendary Floro-owned ballclub still believes James Yap and Co. still can’t hold a candle as far as the legendary success of the Redmanizers is concerned.
Cage great Freddie Hubalde stressed Crispa remains incomparable, notwithstanding Purefoods' grand slam last season and its dominant run over the last four conferences.
“Kung sabihin mong ganun, eh naka-dalawa kami eh. Sila (Hotshots) isa pa lang eh, so tingin ko di mo pa puwede itanong yun, nakaisa pa lang sila,” Hubalde told Spin.ph on Tuesday night as he watched son Paolo play for San Miguel Beer against Rain or Shine during their Philippine Cup game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Hubalde is obviously talking about the two grand slams won by Crispa, the first of which came in 1976 – also the first triple crown sweep in the history of the league – under legendary coach Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan and duplicated in 1983 with the indefatigable Tommy Manotoc at the helm.
The two grand slams highlighted the 13 championships won by the Redmanizers, which for a time, stood as the most number of titles won by a single ballclub until it was surpassed by San Miguel.
Being a member of that two Grand Slam unit, Hubalde couldn't emphasize enough how difficult it was to win during their time, even though the league was only dominated then by two teams in Crispa and Toyota.
“Mahirap talaga (manalo), kailangan pinaghahandaan talaga. (Kailangan ng) hardwork at teamwork para manalo,” recalled the 61-year-old Hubalde, a member of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players who is known for his banked shot.
While today's players are a lot bigger and physically stronger, Hubalde nonetheless believed his era required a lot of mental fortitude, owing to the extreme physical and rough plays that were a common sight back then.
“Mas physical nung araw, kasi didibdiban ka talaga. Noong araw, konti lang ang (TV) camera, mas mahirap maglaro nuon. Eh ngayon, madaling makita,” he said.
“Nuon, maraming gumagawa nun (rough plays) kasi dalawa lang ang camera.”
Behind its intact roster, Purefoods has a chance to match, if not surpass, another epic Crispa achievement - a record six successive championships won from 1975 to 1977.
For the last 37 years, no team has come close to approximating the successive championships won by the Redmanizers, a feat engineered by Dalupan during the PBA’s first three seasons.
If Purefoods can get there, remind us to seek out Hubalde again about his thoughts.