Ar­naiz sees dif­fer­ent bas­ket­ball to­day

Sun.Star Davao - - TOP SPORTS - AL S. MENDOZA

BOYET Si­son of the pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion sports show “Hard Ball” asked Fran­cis Ar­naiz: “In your time, would your All­Star team beat the All­Star Team of to­day?”

“No, never,” said Ar­naiz. “Why?” “Be­cause the game has be­come so dif­fer­ent to­day,” said Ar­naiz. “Bas­ket­ball was so sim­ple and un­com­pli­cated then com­pared to to­day’s brand of bas­ket­ball.”

“How would you com­pare your­selves to to­day’s crop of play­ers?” Si­son pur­sued.

“Play­ers to­day are well-con­di­tioned and so fo­cused and de­ter­mined,” said Ar­naiz.

“Please elab­o­rate?” said Si­son.

“The train­ing is re­ally hard for the guys now,” said Ar­naiz. “The play­ers of to­day, in­clud­ing the still re­ally young ones, are re­ally dead se­ri­ous in their bas­ket­ball busi­ness. Their ma­tu­rity is amaz­ing.”

“Why, what was like in your era?”

“There was more fun than re­ally play­ing se­ri­ous bas­ket­ball,” said Ar­naiz. “The coach is there to just tell us, ‘O, ikaw Fran­cis, ban­tayan mo nang mahig­pit ang tao mo.’ Just like that. No way you could hear a coach break down a play, or even see a coach map out so-called strate­gies us­ing a pen­tel pen on the drawing board.”

Even the hard bumps and vi­cious body con­tacts that we all see in the present bas­ket­ball repub­lic as com­mon fare were, to Ar­naiz, vir­tu­ally taboo in their time.

In Ar­naiz’ es­ti­ma­tion, the sheer phys­i­cal­ity of it to­day’s game had no place in his time.

Yes, for in their era, even a mi­nor nudge or an inad­ver­tent clip of the chin could lean to a bench-emp­ty­ing freefor-all rum­ble.

But Ar­naiz had a caveat.

But if we had the same hard train­ing and reg­i­men then as our present play­ers are be­ing sub­jected to to­day, I be­lieve we could match up with them,” Ar­naiz said. “We could even beat them.”

I was lucky enough to have seen Ar­naiz at his best—from the 70’s to the 80’s. With his speed, adroit­ness and hot hands (he was called “Mr. Clutch”), Ar­naiz, only about 5-foot-8, eas­ily ranks as one of our Top 5 point-guards of all time.

When he got traded with­out his knowl­edge, he ut­tered the quote to last a life­time: “PBA play­ers are like por kilo. They can be sold any­time.”

The Iloilo-born Ar­naiz, now 66, would shortly mi­grate to the US, where he has set­tled for good the last 35 years or so.

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Happy birth­day to Ra­mon S. Ang, the President/CEO of San Miguel Corp. who is fondly called RSA.

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