Both teams are close to his heart, but one could immediately tell which is closer.
Robert Jaworski arrived to a scene he didn’t expect to see – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel trailing 9-2 – in Game 6 of PBA Governors’ Cup Finals last Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jaworski, the legendary player who gave form to Ginebra’s never-say-die spirit 30 years ago, took one look at the giant electronic scoreboard high up the midcourt circle and walked into the Big Dome’s bright lights, finding his way to his ringside seat with more than 22,000 people chanting his name.
The crowd was silent before he made his appearance, stunned that the Kings were thrown against the ropes so early in the game.
Jaworski’s arrival stirred up the Ginebra faithful.
And if ever the Kings, who were looking to close out the series and lock up their ninth title overall and first since 2008 with coach Jong Uichico, needed someone to fire them up, the time was now and the Big J was the one who can do it.
From where he was behind the Ginebra bench, Jaworski watched as the deficit rose to 15, with Meralco coach Norman Black adroitly stirring the back-to-the-wall Bolts to a possible winner-take-all Game 7.
Ironically, Meralco was the team Jaworski played for during the fabled MICAA days before the birth of the PBA, and his pictures, along that of Jimmy Mariano, Orly Bauzon and Big Boy Reynoso, still adorn the building that now houses the Meralco gymnasium.
But now the team he led to unforgetable PBA history during the ‘80s and ‘90s needed him, and he responded.
He joined the Kings at the locker room at halftime with the team trailing by 13 and urged them to settle down and finish the business at hand.
Kings coach Tim Cone recalled the visit during the post-game interview.
“I was ranting and raving at the players and saying all this stuff and then right before we went out, Senator Jaworski just came in,” Cone said.
“He made everyone relax,” Cone said. “All the tenseness in the whole room just went out the window.”
Later on, as he made his way out of the bedlam following Justin Brownlee’s game-winning three-point shot at the buzzer, Jaworski told a wandering reporter that the ending couldn’t have been more appropriate for the Kings.
“It was just perfect, really one for the books,” he gushed.
Asked how he felt about being a huge part of the whole Ginebra mania, Jaworski said amid the flashing lights, shouting and singiing of the Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’: “This is our team. We helped build it, and whenever we are needed, we’ll be there to lend support. Andyan lang naman tayo pag kailangan. Di natin puwede pabayaan ang team natin, di ba?”