Unknown Brownlee flies off a legend
Around the time when Ginebra came calling for his services, Justin Brownlee was taking a break from basketball, having just finished a grueling season in France.
Like most professional basketball players, who were either trying out for NBA teams, working their way back into shape or just treating themselves to a holiday, Brownlee was in Las Vegas when his Filipino agent Sheryl Reyes got in touch with him for a possible stint in the PBA.
Reyes was planning a stint in China for Brownlee, but fate had other plans.
“He was far from his best basketball shape,” said Reyes, recalling the time when she got Brownlee to sign for the Gin Kings in place of Paul Harris, who was injured one game into the PBA Governors’ Cup.
“We had to temper expectations, but coach Tim (Cone) knew he was a good player and would be a good fit to the team.”
Brownlee, who played for St. John’s in the US NCAA, arrived in Manila with little fanfare, a virtual unknown.
True enough, Brownlee cramped in his first game, a scene that evoked memories of past reinforcements who failed to take the crowd darlings to the championship.
But by the time Brownlee returns to the United States in a few days, he’ll depart as a legend.
His status was confirmed when he nailed the game-winning triple that clinched the Gin Kings the Governors’ Cup crown at the expense of the Meralco Bolts, 91-88, last Wednesday.
The shot over Meralco import Allen Durham will go down as one of the most memorable moments in the storied franchise’s history, right up there with the shot Rudy Distrito buried to give Ginebra the 1991 Reinforced Conference title.
“That’s the thing when you’re a kid, you know you have the ball in your hand and count down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and you shoot it,” said Brownlee, who is reinforcing Ginebra again next season.
“I always dreamed and imagined it, but I couldn’t imagine it the way it happened.”
“A lot of people, the fans, my teammates, my family depended on me to make that shot and before the play happened I thought about the fans and everybody who supported Ginebra. I’m just very blessed and happy it went in.”
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