Asi Taulava considers his battles with Yao Ming and Dennis Rodman among the best
Paul Kennedy Lintag on May 21, 2020 03:54 PM
(Photos by AP and FIBA)
Nowadays, Asi Taulava may be known for his extreme longevity playing the game of basketball.
The ageless one is the first player to play in the PBA in four separate decades.
That speaks for Taulava's incredible endurance but also for his talent in playing basketball. The new kids might now know, but Asi is easily one of the best players in league history.
Taulava is certainly one of the best big men, especially during his peak in the late 1990s to the 2000s.
Naturally, the 6'9" center has had some incredible matchups over the years.
In a webinar with Blackwater's Ariel Vanguardia for Hoops Coaches International, the one-time PBA MVP and champion recalled some of his most memorable battles.
"Locally, I think before Kerby Raymundo, it would have to be Dennis Espino. Dennis Espino is very crafty, skilled, has a jumpshot, has footwork," Asi said of Dennis Espino, the former UST and Sta. Lucia star.
While Taulava's Talk 'N Text teams never really had an intense rivalry with Espino's Realtors, both great bigs fought for position in the league during the same era.
"He's so deceiving, you'd think you have him defended but he'll still find a way to get his shots off. At the same time, Dennis' lower body was very strong, he can just punish you taking his time with the ball. What's crazy about Dennis is that you have a hard time trying to guard him, and at the same time he's an exceptional free throw shooter, so you pay the price," Taulava added of Espino.
"Hands down the best Asian player ever would be Yao Ming. Yao, I played against him in 2002, I think he was only 21-years-old. I make my first shot and I'm screaming at Yao. The next six shots I took, it was a volleyball game. Yao was spiking them," Taulava said of the Chinese basketball star who went on to play for the Houston Rockets in the NBA as a no. 1 pick.
Asi had the chance to play Yao in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea. Taulava starred for Team Philippines coached by Jong Uichico.
The national team lost their lone game against Yao and China, 92-51.
"I looked at Coach Jong and I was like timeout, get me out of the game, this is so embarrassing. I think they beat us by like 40-50 points. I can still remember that, I said I'll keep attacking. Boy, he was so motivated to play against the Philippines at the time and he spiked the next six shots, I had no choice. Yao was very skilled, it showed when he got in the NBA. He wasn't just good in Asia, he went to the NBA and he was an All-Star, he was a superstar there," Asi added.
"That dude is strong. To be honest, [I idolize] Dennis Rodman. For the opportunity for me to share the floor with him, I was more of a fan than anything else," Taulava said of "The Worm," the five-time NBA champion and teammate of Michael Jordan during the Chicago Bulls' second NBA 3-peat.
In 2006 Rodman had a travel basketball team that made a stop in Manila. Asi was part of the local team that played against Rodman's "Bad Boys" crew.
"This guy, he's unbelievable. You see him in the NBA, you think he's a complete jerk, but that night when he came, he was awesome. He was just out there enjoying the game and you can see the love that he had for it too. I'm a big Lakers fan, but I idolized Dennis because of rebounding, I watched him because of his work ethic and everything," Taulava added.
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