Jalen Brunson’s connection to PH is lasting moment for longtime Ginebra fans
Rick Brunson’s only game in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) happened to be the last game the sport’s local icon, Robert Jaworski was seen on the sidelines with Barangay Ginebra, the squad he guided to its hallowed perch as the country’s most famous team.
It’s a piece of history that everybody directly in the circle of those involved will always remember.
But Jalen Brunson, Rick’s son, has a reason why that memory is difficult to recall.
“What year was that?” the New York Knicks guard asked after being informed of Rick’s cameo as Ginebra import. The answer? 1998.
“I was barely two years old then,” said Jalen.
The elder Brunson is one of several NBA players who had donned the jersey of the PBA’s most popular ballclub, joining names revered by the Barangay faithful like Billy Ray Bates, Chris King and Henry James.
But his time with the Gin Kings lasted just one game as Brunson and Kenny Payne, who were tasked to salvage the team’s campaign in the season-ending Governors’ Cup, lost to eventual champion Formula Shell, eliminating them from semifinals contention.
That was the last time Jawroski, a playing coach, was seen on the Ginebra sidelines. He had started his term as a senator and eventually resigned from his post amid a dispute with the management of San Miguel Corporation.
“That’s crazy,” Jalen said. “Basketball has opened a lot of places for me and my family. So to know that dad was here, it’s special to know that we can experience [something to bond] together. And we had a lot of moments like that, so just something that we’ll definitely talk about in a matter of time.”
That time with Ginebra came in between Rick’s rookie NBA season with the Portland Trail Blazers and a lockout that shortened the 1999 season to 50 games.
Signed by Knicks
Rick eventually got signed by the Knicks as a third-string guard who was part of the team’s unlikely run to the NBA Finals, where they eventually lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Rick is now an assistant coach with the Knicks, a post that played a major influence in Jalen signing a four-year, $104 million deal with the team.
After an impressive season leading New York to the second round of the playoffs, the younger Brunson has an opportunity to further shine on the international stage as part of Team USA.
Jalen had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists as a starter in Team USA’s 99-72 victory over New Zealand in the Americans’ opening Fiba World Cup match Saturday night.
Paolo Banchero led six Americans with double figures with 21 points as Team USA got its title bid off to a solid start, but not after facing a test from the stubborn Kiwis.