BARANGAY Ginebra's predicament in the PBA Philippine Cup, where after a loss on Wednesday night the top seed has found itself dragged into a knockout match by eight-seeded Alaska Milk, brings back haunting memories for man mountain Asi Taulava.
His mind inevitably races back to his rookie year in the pro league back in 1999, when the 6-foot-9 slotman led Mobiline to the top of the standings in the eliminations with an 11-5 win-loss record only to fall in two games to eight seed Ginebra.
To this day, the memory of Bal David hitting the game winner in Game Two remains too painful to recall for Asi, who considers it the lowest point of his career.
They Said It!
“Ginebra shouldn’t give Alaska any chance. They have to finish them early. You wouldn’t want them to hang around. They’re very dangerous." - Air21 center Asi Taulava
“Trust me, the pain is unbearable. I hope it doesn’t happen to Ginebra. Hopefully they can finish off Alaska,” Taulava, a self-confessed Ginebra fan, said.
“Ginebra shouldn’t give Alaska any chance. They have to finish them early. You wouldn’t want them to hang around. They’re very dangerous.”
Listen to the podcast of the Asi Taulava interview here
The evergreen 40-year-old center recalled that after Ginebra pulled off an amazing 77-67 stunner in their first game in 1999, the pressure became too much to bear for him and the rest of the Phone Pals.
“It was tough back then. We tried to manage our pressure and not think about it, you know our top seeding suddenly gone wrong,” Taulava recalled. “We really tried to ward it off our minds, but the pressure was like persistent."
Taulava now hopes Ginebra can handle the pressure better than them.
“Alaska now lost its pressure, and Ginebra has it now. So you can imagine that. Actually, I don’t ever want to feel that feeling again, you know,” said Taulava, who was reduced to tears after David nailed that buzzer-beating layup that sealed Mobiline’s 82-81 loss in May 12, 1999.
Taulava continued: “Man, it’s like no words can explain how pressured you are, when you are at that point. Even if you try to block it out and you try to be your best … it’s just so hard."
“Right now, I believe all the pressure is on Ginebra!”
Even then Mobiline coach Eric Altamirano bared how nerve-wracking Game Two was for them.
“Ang pressure talaga sa amin 'nun sa second game na. Kasi parang you were number one tapos ang masakit pa, the loss came down to the last shot,” Altamirano said.
“There was pressure obviously, parang when you lose the first game nag-e-even out eh. Nawala na yung advantage mo,” said the now NU Bulldogs coach. “Unfortunately, Bal David made that impossible shot.”
Aside from the momentum swing, Taulava said it was the thought of letting down the expectations of the team and its fans that brings about the anxiety in Game Two.
“Yeah, the anxiety there lies on you being number one and just the feeling that if anything goes wrong, you might be eliminated,’ he said. “It’s so much pressure walking around with the thought and feeling that you know, one mistake you know you will lose everything.”
The former MVP said he is keeping his fingers crossed that déjà vu’ won't happen on Saturday night.
“When they lose it and they get eliminated by an eight-seeded team, the pain hangs there for a while and you will be remembered just like me,” said Taulava.
However, Asi said the experience, as hard as it was, pushed him to persevere more.
“It was the most painful part of the career, but it really motivated me to what I am today. It totally molded me to be tougher,” said the Air21 star.