ONE season ago, pundits frowned at the idea of Manny Pacquiao playing in the Philippine Basketball Association via the rookie draft.
For some, it was more like an accommodation for a superstar athlete, who supposedly had a childhood dream of playing in the country’s premier basketball league.
Pacquiao, because of his massive success as a pound-for-pound boxing champion that translated into enormous adulation, was believed to be an added attraction to the league that, in the first place, was in no need of any help when it comes to its own status.
There were calls for Pacquiao not to pursue a playing career in the PBA as he may end up being a laughingstock of the league.
I was one of those, who felt Manny Pacquiao playing in the PBA would serve as a blot not only to his legacy, but even for the PBA, too.
But Manny Pacquiao coaching in the PBA is something that I am amenable to.
This upcoming season, another basketball personality whose name is revered as a boxing icon just like Pacquiao has entered the PBA draft.
The 23-year-old Nico Elorde, a 5’10” former Ateneo point guard was picked 36th overall by the Alaska Aces in last month’s annual rookie.
Unlike Pacquiao, the young Elorde earned his spurs as the grandson of boxing legend Flash Elorde played competitive basketball in his entire student life.
Elorde was part of champion teams in the UAAP junior and senior divisions and the PBA D-League.
Character-wise, Elorde has survived challenges that would have made players of lesser stuff easily capitulate.
A student-player for De La Salle since elementary to high school, Elorde made the seniors’ team but was cut in a seemingly painful way after only one season.
Three days before De La Salle was to leave for the United States and undergo training, Elorde was informed that he will no longer be part of the school’s varsity team.
“Nu’ng nawala ako du’n, akala ko tapos na career ko, pero in the end, hindi ako nag give-up. Until I got a call from Ateneo, where we won a championship sa first year ko,” said Elorde.
Elorde can be considered as a work in progress at least based on his numbers in the UAAP.
After averaging 2.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists in his first season with Ateneo, Elorde ended his college career by submitting average numbers of eight points, three rebounds and three assists.
Elorde’s own dream to play in the PBA got a boost when he got drafted by Alaska.
“I really like his heart and how hard he plays. He’s there if you want to give a guy like that a look and so we gave him a look. But we’re really crowded. He would fit in with the work ethic for sure though,” said Aces coach Alex Compton.
At the moment, Elorde is trying out with the Mahindra Enforcers where Pacquiao is listed as the team’s playing coach.
It is no secret that Pacquiao and the Elorde family have a strong bond, but this will not make the young Elorde implore from the boxing icon a slot in his team and play in the PBA.
“Challenge sa akin ‘yun to prove my worth. Maraming magsasabi na pang boxing lang kami at ‘yun and challenge ko, to prove to all na Elorde is not just about boxing,” said Elorde.