By NICK GIONGCO
LOS ANGELES — If everything falls into place, Manny Pacquiao might end up becoming not only as one of the shortest players to ever play hoops in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) but also as the oldest rookie.
Pacquiao, 35, had told The Bulletin a few days before he faced Tim Bradley in Las Vegas that he will suit up for Kia Motors in the PBA in October.
In fact, he already has chosen a jersey number.
“Number 17,” said the hard-hitting Pacquiao. “That’s my birthday (December 17).
Kia is one of three new companies whose application was accepted as a member of the PBA. The others were Blackwater and NLEX.
Pacquiao said he has been invited by Colombian Motors Corporation owner Jose Alvarez to join the team. Pacquiao and Alvarez, who is also governor of Palawan, are reportedly good friends.
But for him to play, Pacquio must first apply and join the rookie draft.
Pacquiao has always loved basketball. He even includes it as part of his conditioning program before his fights. During months of inactivity, basketball is one of his fitness activities.
During the run up to the Bradley rematch, Pacquiao spent many hours in the basketball court built inside his yard in General Santos City.
He also formed a team that played in a minor league and he regularly plays against ex-PBA imports, collegiate standouts and ex-pros during his free time.
Should Pacquiao get drafted, he will be one of the shortest dribblers in the PBA ever.
Billy Abarrientos, uncle of former Alaska ace Johnny, was the shortest at 5 feet, 5 inches. Others within that height range were Boyet Bautista (5-5 ¾) and Al Vergara (5-5 5/8), both retired and Eman Monfort (5-6 1/6), who is an active player.
Pacquiao’s real height is actually a minor mystery.
He is sometimes listed in the tale of the tape as being 5-7 although he has been measured by some boxing commissions as being 5-6 1/2.
Reaction from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was guarded.
“I have not heard anything official about this from Kia or Manny himself so I have no direct comment on it. I am happy to note though Manny’s undiminished love for basketball given all his successes in other fields. He is a great ambassador for any sport, including basketball,” said PBA Commissioner Chito Salud.
Perhaps his only thought is to hope that Pacquiao will not be involved in any free-for-all or fracas during the game.