Big J’s No. 7 retired in glitzy ritesBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ROBERT Jaworski wiped away tears as “Winner,” his favorite Frank Sinatra song, was played.
The league’s most colorful player known as the Big J roused the crowd with his naughty one-liners and then wrapped up the official retirement ceremony for his No. 7 jersey with words of wisdom that brought back memories of his “never-say-die” spirit.
“Lessons learned from losses and failures are essential to one’s success,” Jaworski, now 66 years old, told a packed Smart Araneta Coliseum last night as his uniform he donned in 14 PBA seasons as player and then as coach was retired.
“Dare to reach your goal for sooner or later, you will take it. And that’s the never-say-die spirit.”
Many in the jampacked Big Dome soaked in a different aura, the one that defined the PBA in its first two decades as fans paid tribute to Jaworski.
“This is truly a great honor that you have bestowed on me,” the former senator, a 13-time PBA champion team member and 1978 MVP told the crowd in Filipino. “Had I been a woman you are courting, I would have already given you a wet kiss on the lips.”
The entire PBA leadership, led by the board chair, team representatives and commissioner Chito Salud, came out to salute the “Big J,” with Salud taking the chance to remind players to mould their careers after that of Jaworski’s.
“You played the game like it should be,” Salud said. “It is those values that the players that we have today, and tomorrow, will have to live up to. These are the foundations that made the PBA.”
Also present was Jaworski’s entire family led by wife Evelyn, former Toyota coach Dante Silverio and his players in the old Ginebra San Miguel squad, the biggest draw in the 1980s and 1990s.
One of the highlights of the two-hour-plus affair was the meeting of the old and new Ginebra squads at center court, with team captain Mark Caguioa doing a fist-pump with Jaworski symbolizing the changing of the guards.
Jaworski was given everything one could hope for in the jersey retirement ceremony, save for the fact that what was retired didn’t look like a jersey at all, but a huge banner that had his name and former team on it.
And when it was time to leave, Jaworski said something that would make his loyal fans anticipate a bigger event.
“I hope we will be given a chance to be together once more,” he said in Filipino. “In another association that is beyond compare.”