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Philip Cezar: PBA’s ‘Tapal King’ & ‘The Scholar’

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 3/11/2020 Eddie G. Alinea
Ricky Yacobi holding a basketball © Provided by The Manila Times

For 1975 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) pioneer Philip Cezar of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers fame, the best thing the country’s and Asia’s first play-for-pay league had given him is a better opportunity in life after his playing career.

“The PBA provided me and my fellow players, for that matter, the means to meet and survive the challenges in life in our retirement days,” the now 68-year-old, who hung his playing uniform 28 years ago declared.

Cezar, who they called “Tapal King” for his ability to block shots and “The Scholar,” retired following a 17-year playing carrier, appeared as guest during last Friday’s Scoop On Air Forum at The Manila Times TV.

Cezar and some 140 players that made up the nine teams, who shed off their amateur status to play as pros in the league’s inaugural season in 1975, were honored by the PBA during its season opener on Sunday in time for its 45th anniversary this year.

“Of course we did it through our ability to play skillfully as pros in the spirit of what the sport of basketball required as to,” the 6-feet, 3 inches tall Cezar who some considered as the best “thinking” power-forward during his playing days, asserted.

“At siyempre naman, we had to abide by all the rules and regulations promulgated by the league para sa aming mga pros with the end in view of creating condition of fair play, equal competition, skills and talent development, for the fans to enjoy and appreciate the game,” he added.

“Bukod sa pagbibigay sa amin ng hanap-buhay habang kami’y naglalaro, ang PBA ang naging daan din sa ng pagiging lider in trekking our path through retirement,” he said.

“Sino ang mag-aakala halimbawa na ang isang Philip Cezar na hindi naman nakatapos ng paga-aral ay naging konsehal ng aming bayan (San Juan City), tatlong beses vice mayor at naging acting mayor pa? he reminisced.

“’Yun ilan nga naging senador pa,” he said rather excitedly in reference to Robert Jaworski of former Crispa archrival Toyota and Freddie Webb, who played for Yco.

But most important of all, Cezar said, what he learned playing basketball as pro, taught him and wife April to extend the benefit to their three children, two of whom — Patricia, the oldest at 42, and PJ, 37 — who both earned college degrees and living in Australia with their respective families.

“Isa na ang ang naiwan sa amin, si Paolo-Nicole, na ayaw kaming iwan dahil wala daw magbabantay s aming mag-asawa pag-tanda amin,” he said.

Cezar, born December 1, 1951, admitted being a product of sandlot basketball having learned the rudiments of the game playing in barangay tournaments in San Juan in his elementary and high school days before carrying the Southern Tagalog Athletic Association (STAA) banner in the Palarong Pambansa.

It was while seeing action for STAA in Palaro where he was spotted by then Jose Rizal College (now Jose Rizal University) coach Francisco Calilan where he played for only a year gifting the Bombers an NCAA championship in 1972.

From there, he’d to wear the Crispa jersey in many Redmanizers’ title conquests in the amateur leagues — MICAA, National Seniors and National Open, what have you — for three years before the Danny Floro-owned franchise joined the eight other teams in Organizing the PBA.

He was part of the fabled Crispa that won two Grand Slams in 1976 under coach Baby Dalupan and 1983 under golfer-turned basketball mentor Tommy Manotoc.

“Ipe,” as close friends and fellow players also called him, won the PBA Most Valuable Player award in 1980. He was known by the monikers “Tapal King” for his shot-blocking prowess even and “The Scholar” being a perfect example of finesse in playing the game. in playing the game.

At 6’3 and less than 200 pounds, he was usually given the unenviable task of guarding tall imports from opposing teams. On defense, his unusually long arms served him in good stead, using them in his famous “umbrella-like” defense and two-handed shot-blocks.

Though the playing No. 4 position for most of his career, he was like a second point guard on the floor, often orchestrating big plays and dishing out timely passes. He could also run the floor and finish fast breaks with his patented “stretch” lay-up.

He is best remembered as the very first one-on-one champion of the league when he defeated Ramon Fernandez, also of Toyota in the finals of the 1979 Sprite One-on-One Challenge.

In 2000, he was named as one of the PBA’s 25 greatest players of all-time in elaborate awards ceremonies that highlighted the 25th anniversary of the league.

He was one of the twelve initial inductees to the PBA Hall of Fame in 2005 along with fellow Crispans Atoy Co and Bogs Adornado, and Toyota’s Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz and Fernandez and PBA founding Commissioner Leo Prieto.

Also in that list of first HoF’ers were founding president Emerson Coseteng and commissioner lawyer Rudy Salud as well as legendary basketball maestro Dalupan, Crispa team manager-owner Floro and television anchorman Joe Cantada.

He ended his colorful PBA career as the No. 6 all-time leading scorer with 12,077 points behind Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Patrimonio, Atoy Co and Nelson Asaytono fifth all-time best rebounder with 5,834 total boards and had 3,130 assists (3.4 assists per game), 599 steals, converted 2066/2767 free throws in 28127:05 minutes played in 918 games.

He, along with Fernandez, are the only two players in PBA history who has accumulated at least 12,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 1,000 shot blocks.

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