The Rondo-like spit that once mired the PBA
Gerry Plaza on Oct 23, 2018 01:48 PM
Onchie Dela Cruz (right) once released his deepest rancor by blowing a disgusting round of spit on former LA Laker Wes Matthews (Photo courtesy of Ruben Esguerra, 1991-92 PBA Annual).
That infamous, nasty incident wherein Rajon Rondo was seen spitting on Chris Paul that led to an ugly melee that marred the Lakers-Rockets game at the Staples Center Saturday leaves NBA fans shocked at how their idols can go so low in “stressing a point.”
Would our much admired Filipino players do the same in our beloved sport?
You would say yes given the colorful history of Philippine basketball, wherein a nudge, trip, kick, or undercut (the legacy of our menacing and tough yet legendary “enforcers”) was so common that players would just seem to set them aside as part of the game.
But a spit on the face? It’s the most denigrating, unsportsmanlike, objectionable act on a person that should trigger a most livid physical response given how it’s done deliberately and consciously.
Surely, it was considered a common yet somewhat unnoticed foul move in the earlier days of local basketball, committed by even the biggest legends of the sport. Just like rough physical play, notorious, cunning players would allegedly spit on driving opponents to distract them from making the basket. And they would get away with it, given how the offended player would find it extremely difficult to prove it (no quadruple zoom-slo mo video at the time, sorry). Except of course, he shows his saliva-laden face to the officials.
But in recent years, with the coming of the slo-mo replays that have really advanced as years went by, these actions have been caught on film, which is clear, unquestionable proof about the offender’s culpability. Many were sanctioned, most especially in college basketball wherein such acts are blamed on youthful recklessness.
But in pro basketball, wherein players are considered demigods in cage fare? Would they do it in full view of everyone in the court, in the stands and the millions at home with the handy instant replays? And of course, heavier, stiffer penalties awaiting them?
The PBA at present has carefully prevented hooliganism in recent years with its strict, unbending rules against extreme physicality. And these were crafted by the worst “court crimes” they’ve witnessed.
There was one incident, by far, that was considered the most disconcerting because it involved a player throwing ball of saliva plastering his DNA onto a player’s face.
It was an eliminations game as the 1991 PBA Reinforced Conference was underway, Ginebra faced Presto figured in a much-awaited encounter.
Tivoli coach Jimmy Mariano fielded point guard and known badass enforcer Onchie dela Cruz to wreak havoc on defense, given that Ginebra is a tough never-say-die squad, and Robert Jaworski, Sr. himself recognized his fearsome ways.
As Ginebra import Wes Matthews drove in for a shot, Dela Cruz in his patented rough, streetwise style mercilessly hacked the former Laker. Not used to that kind of foul even in his NBA days, Matthews was fuming, taunting Dela Cruz who appeared indifferent at first. But when Matthews continued his taunting, and with cameras focused on the two, Dela Cruz suddenly released his deepest rancor by blowing a disgusting round of spit on his adversary. And this triggered a free for all that almost stopped the match.
He then was meted a suspension and a fine.
Truly one of a kind, such unbecoming and despicable act is unwarranted even if provoked. Yet, luckily and thankfully no other such incidents were reported or recorded.
At least in public.