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‘Play better and prove them wrong’


From one royalty to another, El Presidente has some sage words for King James.

Twice traded during his PBA career, four-time MVP Ramon Fernandez says moving from one team to another isn’t such a bad thing.

“End of the world? Di naman siguro,” says Fernandez on the phone from his home in Cebu. “It’s part of the life of a professional player. For sure, Star and Rain or Shine have their own reasons why they did it; we’re not privy to that, of course. But for one, baka gusto nilang palakasin yung teams nila, and they feel these are the players they needed to do that.”

Fernandez’s thoughts were sought in the aftermath of a blockbuster trade that sent two-time MVP James Yap from the Star Hotshots to Rain or Shine for Paul Lee.

Yap had been with the Purefoods franchise since his rookie year 12 years ago and his departure has sparked a torrent of reaction from PBA fans and fellow players.

wYap himself expressed sadness over his release, but said he was looking forward to reuniting with his former amateur team.

Fernandez called trading of players an “ordinary occurrence.”

After Toyota disbanded in 1984, Fernandez, along with several Super Corolla teammates, was absorbed by Beer Hausen which bought the Toyota franchise and was put up specifically to provide the floundering league a sixth member.

He won his second MVP award with the Lucio Tan franchise before a friend, Don Pepito del Gallego, a high-ranking Tanduay executive, informed Fernadez that he was headed the Rhum Masters’ way for ex-Crispa Redmanizer Abet Guidaden in the middle of the 1985 season.

At Tanduay, Fernandez’s stock rose even higher as he formed an alliance with former Crispa rivals Freddie Hubalde and Padim Israel to win three PBA championships, along the way picking up his third MVP trophy in 1986.

“There was never a feeling of rejection for me, the sense of being unwanted,” says Fernandez. “Truth is, lahat ng trade ko e heaven, puro happiness, kasi gusto ko ’yung pupuntahan ko.”

He refuses to speculate if he would have vetoed any undesirable trade during his time, but Fernandez says “I would have said something about it.”

That a traded player is a superstar or not is of little consequence, Fernandez says.

“It really depends on the situation and team na mag-acquire sa’yo, like iba siguro ang feeling ni Paul Lee sa nararamdaman ni James Yap, di ba?”

As with Yap, who will start practicing with his former Philippine Basketball League team on Monday, completing a full circle, Fernandez went the same route in his pro career.

“San Miguel was my first team [in the MICAA] back in 1972, if you recall,” says Fernandez. “So doon din ako nagtapos; parang homecoming of sorts.”

Tanduay folded before the 1988 season and Purefoods, then owned by Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, came in and installed Fernandez as a playing-coach before shipping him to San Miguel before the third conference, again for Guidaben.

Back to his origins, Fernandez won his fourth MVP in the 1988 Reinforced Conference as SMB romped off with the title before completing a Grand Slam the following season, with El Presidente cementing his reputation as the greatest PBA player ever.

He retired soon after.

Long removed from the wheeling-and-dealing of a professional basketball player, Fernandez, how a commissioner in the Philippine Sports Commission, says that while he feels for any player who gets traded, putting things in perspective maybe how best to approach such changes.

“As I’ve said, trades are a normal occurrence in the life of a pro athlete so you just have to play better in your next team to prove them all wrong,” he says.

“Yon ang motivation. After all, ang target naman ng isang player is to win a championship – with any team, for that matter.”

Rain or Shine has won with Lee, now Yap gets his turn to deliver for his mother team.