Jaworski Philippine basketball’s ‘Living Legend’

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Imagine a 6-foot-1, 185-pound Robert “Sonny” Jaworski manning the mound in baseball or softball games, playing infield or outfield during his competitive days.

Toyota sentinel Robert “Sonny” Jaworski shows one of his signature moves against a Tanduay import in one of the Tamaraw’s games that earned for him the MVP in the PBA’s 1978 Season. PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

Instead of carrying the ball down court, directing plays as a guard or making points as forward or defending the paint as he prone doing what later in his chosen basketball career in the varsity and amateur commercial leagues and eventually in the PBA.

The former situations nearly happened, actually, had the “Big J” or “Jawo” or whatever it is fans call him, not moved to basketball where he earned the honor of being baptized “Living Legend” of Philippine basketball.

Basketball, actually, was not the sport Sonny had in mind to be his profession. Being a small boy at the Roxas High School in Manila, he played softball, baseball and sometimes competed in swimming and athletics, too.

“But before finishing high school, I started growing up. Then people started, too, advising me to play basketball instead,” Jawo told this writer in one of the many interviews with him at his senate office during his term as member of the Upper Chamber of Congress.

“I didn’dt know anything about basketball then. Still I tried playing the game. Magaling daw ako, sabi nila. After high school, nag-tryout ako sa FEU. But I asked myself, bakit hindi sa UE? Mas sikat ang UE noon, madalas manalo sa UAAP championship,” he recalled.

“The family was no longer in Pandacan then, but the shadow of having grown in a slum area still lingered. Sa umpisa, para akong castoff,” he continued. “I had to fight that off my back. I needed the lessons I learned from living in a poor community. That of fighting from adversity after another paid off.

The first thing you want to know about the Big J is his honesty and, as we say Filipinos in Tagalog, “marunong tumanaw ng utang na loob.”

It was Crispa coach Baby Dalupan, incidentally, who took a raw Jaworski into his care and develop the virtually unknown but multi-talented player into the becoming what he has been.

Jaworski paid tribute to the country’s winningest mentor called “maestro” for starting him off the road tom success. “Baby gave me the first big break when he took me as member of the UE Warriors in 1964,” he reminisced of the Redmanizers’ coach his team Toyota rivalled in the many titular contests for basketball supremacy.

Don Manolo Elizalde of the Elizalde Group of Companies, whose team legendary team Yco Painters he starred in the then amateur premier league Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association following his completion of a marketing management degree at UE was another person, he said, he owes in many successes he attained.

He also, gave thanks to the Tamaraww team manager-coach Dante Silverio as to have culminated in establishing his revered cage status as a pro. “As an executive, Dante is effective in giving us players with proper training equipment, medical aid and other essential facilities.”

“Dante is a dedicated leader, always getting out of his way to continuously bolster us in terms of manpower quality. He is a believer in dialogue, an inspiration to the entire Tamaraws team,” he said.

Jaworski took four years to reap the honor many believed he should’ve won right at the start of the country’s pioneering pro-league – the Season MVP.

“No regret!” he confessed frankly. “It takes a tremendous amount ot self-disciplie and sacrifices to succeed in what you want tom achieve. There is no easy way to accomplishing results consiustently,” Jawo stressed. “As a pro, I work hard to be fair and honest to myself. Nothing beautiful comes easy.”

Indeed, Jaworski, married to the former Evelyn Bautista, daughter of actor Ramon Revilla Sr. with whom he has three children, prospered in his career as a player and in other undertakings he had involved himself in through determination, self-sacrifice and hard work.

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