MANILA – Two former Philippine Basketball Association team owners headline the list of sportsmen who will be given posthumous recognition in this year’s Philippine Sportswriter Association Awards on March 6 at the Manila Hotel.
John Gokongwei, the boss of the Great Taste franchise, and Bong Tan, who made the return of the Tanduay club to Asia’s premier play-for-pay basketball league, will be honored with a tribute and moment of silence alongside 13 other sports personalities who passed away last year.
Gokongwei had a hand in establishing the PBA in 1975 with the Universal Robina franchise being one of the founding members of the league.
Great Taste found great success in the PBA during the mid-80’s with a talented roster led by Ricky Brown and a young Allan Caidic.
Great Taste’s stint in the PBA came to an end in 1993 after selling its franchise to Sta. Lucia.
On the other hand, Tan brought Asia Brewery, which had a short-lived stint in the PBA as Beer Hausen, back into club basketball existence in the 90’s through Stag Pale Pilsen in the Philippine Basketball League.
The team, once led by PBA legend Marlou Aquino and current Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, would become the second incarnation of the Tanduay franchise.
With a lineup headlined by Eric Menk, Tanduay made its way back to the PBA in 1999, and the team quickly became a championship contender, making the finals of the Philippine Cup that year.
But after just three seasons, Tanduay team folded, and Tan sold the franchise to the former Laguna Lakers club of the Metropolitan Basketball Association, which made a jump to the PBA and became the FedEx and later the Air21 Express.
Tan found his way back to the PBL in the late 2000’s with the Cobra club, which he brought to the then newly-formed PBA D-League during the next decade as Boracay Rum and Tanduay Light.
The said franchise became one of the founding members of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League and was renamed the Batangas City Athletics.
Gokongwei passed away on Nov. 9, 2019 at age 93, while Tan died two days later at 53 after collapsing in a basketball game.
Other notable deceased sportsmen to be given honor are former national basketball team player Florendo Ritualo Sr., renowned volleyball coach Nes Pamilar, and sports agent Sheryl Reyes. (PNA)