FOR veteran Danny Ildefonso, being named among the 40 Greatest PBA Players would be a fitting end to his colorful 16-year career in the pro league.
“Kung makakasama ako doon (40 Greatest Players list), eh di okay,” said Ildefonso on Wednesday after getting wind of the plan to name a Top 40 list in time for the league’s 40th season.
They Said It!
“Pero sana, kung maisama tayo dun, naglalaro pa ako kasi pangarap ko na makapaglaro hanggang 38 years old. At least, quota na ako." Two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso
The top overall pick by San Miguel during the 1998 rookie draft, Ildefonso won two league Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and was part of eight championship teams of the Beermen in a 16-year career.
The soft-spoken Ildefonso, who signed up with Meralco this season following a falling-out with San Miguel management, said playing this long in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league is something he never imagined when he left National University as a lanky big man during the late 90s.
“Di ko naisip na makakarating or baka maisama ako sa top 40 ng PBA,” he recalled.
Ironically, Ildefonso would have been an automatic selection when the league named its 25 Greatest Players of its first 25 years, where MVP awardees were automatically included in the selection.
However, the league awarded the 25 Greatest citations in 2000. Ildefonso won the first of his back-to-back league MVP awards at the end of that season.
Ildefonso said if ever he’s included in the 40 Greatest Players list, he is hopeful he’ll still be active in the league since it could fulfill his dream of still playing at the age of 38.
“Pero sana, kung maisama tayo dun, naglalaro pa ako kasi pangarap ko na makapaglaro hanggang 38 years old. At least, quota na ako,” he said with a smile.
In an unofficial poll being conducted by Spin.ph, Ildefonso is running third behind San Mig's James Yap and Ginebra star Mark Caguioa among the players who fans feel are most deserving of places in the Top 40 list.
There are 11,767 respondents so far in the poll.
The 37-year-old Ildefonso initially signed a one-conference contract with the Bolts during the Philippine Cup, a deal that has since been extended until the end of the season.
Ildefonso has been vocal about how grateful he is to Meralco, the team that gambled on him despite playing limited minutes during his final season with San Miguel.
Although no longer explosive the way he was during his prime, the pride of Urdaneta, Pangasinan proved he still has enough gas left in the tank after providing quality minutes off the bench for the Bolts by averaging 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.6 blocks in 26 minutes of action during the recent All-Filipino conference.
Ildefonso said he hopes to continue to contribute for a Meralco team that is still in search for its first ever league title since entering the PBA in 2010.