MANILA, Philippines — After all the struggles on the court, all the hate on social media and all the questions nagging him, Gary David found a respite of sorts Monday night in a 90-71 victory over Japan in the Fiba Asia championship.
It did not come via the layup he made that Jimmy Alapag painstakingly constructed with an awkward rendition of Gilas Pilipinas’ dribble-drive offense. It wasn’t from the three-point shot from the corner.
Gary David found respite in the adoring cheers of the Mall of Asia Arena crowd and in the emotional, tear-filled embrace of his wife and daughter.
“Through all my struggles, the people never gave up. My teammates never gave up, my family never gave up,” said David in Filipino. “I’m really thankful.”
“He had been feeling a lot of pressure,” said Jen David, 30, in Filipino.
David had been noticeably missing from the Gilas Pilipinas roster of contributors the past three games. And his struggles were magnified during a crucial 84-79 loss to Chinese Taipei when the Philippines lost a huge lead while he was on the court.
But the team refused to give up on him. Upon his request, David was removed from his place in the starting unit and came off the bench.
“I wanted to get the chance to size up the situation first. I wanted to see the opponents and know them more,” he said.
He was brought off the bench with 1:55 left in the first quarter. But he was unable to get any shot off. On one drive attempt, he passed to an open Japeth Aguilar at the last moment.
“We just kept talking to him,” said forward Ranidel de Ocampo. “One thing I told him was to think of his family.”
Actually, family was the closest thing on David’s mind during his struggles. At home, daughter Maxene would wonder—often out loud—why daddy, a scoring champ in the PBA, hasn’t been burning cotton in this most important tour of duty in his career.
“Gary explained patiently that this is not like the PBA,” Jen said.
And so, as David finally ended his struggles with a layup off an Alapag feed and a triple set up perfectly by LA Tenorio, Maxene, 4, wearing a replica of her father’s jersey couldn’t have been happier.
“She had been waiting for this moment,” Jen said. Except that mother and daughter couldn’t possibly have expected how big the moment would be. Even while soaking in the atmosphere of the cheers, Jen could not comprehend it. Maxene? She just sobbed uncontrollably.
“She cries easily,” Jen said. “Me, I’m just happy. People have been hitting us on social media. Right now, I’m just happy.”
“It’s a thrill to watch the crowd react that way, especially since Gary has been struggling,” said Aguilar, who had a superb rim-rattling performance for Gilas Pilipinas.
“It’s touching. Through all of it, they never gave up on me,” David said.
After acknowledging the crowd together with the Gilas squad, David rushed to courtside to hug his wife and daughter. He wound up with just five points, but those were important points if you ask Alapag, who asked coach Chot Reyes for a chance to set Gary up.
“Gary’s not just one of the best scorers in the PBA. He’s also one of the best in Asia,” said Alapag. “Hopefully, he can build on this one.”
Jen is also hopeful Gary will build on this one.
“Maybe one of these days, he will explode,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s just glad her husband has found some love at a time when he really needs it.
“If I could come up to them one by one,” Jen said of the crowd, “I would say thank you to each of them.”