A big feat
Days before last Sunday, Barangay Ginebra spitfire LA Tenorio really couldn’t fathom what being the “Ironman” meant in the PBA.
“I was asking my friends: Is that such a big deal? Why are all the news reports making a fuss out of it?” Tenorio told the Inquirer, a day after playing his 597th consecutive game to become the league’s most durable player.
He took the record away from Alvin Patromonio, who, ironically, was on the opposite side of the Big Dome floor that boisterous night as the Magnolia team manager.
Patrimonio watched as his Hotshots lost in overtime, 97-93, after Scottie Thompson played his way through cramps to help make it Tenorio’s night.
“The way my teammates stepped up for me that game showed that it was truly a big deal,” Tenorio, who scored 10 points and had eight assists, went on over the phone. “(Days before) I never thought it was that big considering that I just wanted to play (all those years). I never had that record in my mind.”
Like June Mar Fajardo’s five straight MVP’s, it’s hard to even think that someone could be playing that well for that long.
“I consider this a miracle,” said the 34-year-old Tenorio after the game. “For the past 17 years, I’ve been playing competitive basketball, so I think it’s really God’s gift. He chose me—among the millions of basketball players from the PBA, NBA, international [leagues] etc.—to do this.”
Tenorio was drafted as the fourth choice overall by San Miguel Beer in 2006, and he has never missed a game throughout his pro career—this despite several call-ups for national duty and the accompanying rest that he foregoes after each international tournament.
Tenorio has been injury-free since the 2003 UAAP while with Ateneo, and that is why he says that this record is a miracle.
“I am not religious, but I told him that he cannot thank anybody except God,” Arben Santos, the businessman who is Tenorio’s adviser, said in a separate interview. “I told him to give whatever bonus he gets from this record to the church, because this will never be repeated by anyone.”
Not counting the eight games that Tenorio has played this season—the Gin Kings have a 5-3 record and are chasing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Philippine Cup playoffs—the No. 4 pick in the 2006 Draft is averaging 45.3 games per season in his first 13 years.
And with his current pact to expire at the end of next year, if another 90 games are added until his contract ends, he could wind up playing 679 straight games.
And he won’t be done after next season.
“I think I still have another three to four years left in me,” Tenorio went on. “As long as I can do what coach Tim (Cone) wants me to do, as long as I feel that I can play in this league, I’ll keep on playing.”
For Cone, Tenorio and Patrimonio are a class of their own. “That’s why only the two of them have done it. It’s really a lot harder than people think it is. No one has come close.”
“I hope this becomes the legacy I’ll leave in the PBA,” Tenorio closed.
And it will stand the test of time.
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