“Bakit pa nga ba ako tinawag na Iron Man kung hindi ko kayang gampanan ang ibig sabihin nito.”
Thus, was how Philippine basketball’s ’Iron Man,” LA Tenorio told this writer in an interview a week before Christmas Day three years ago in answer to query why he should not play for the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel during a bubble tournament resuming action in the play-for-pay league due the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown.
The then 36-year-old Gin Kings point-guard had earlier announced he planned not to join the Kings when they made it to New Clark City for the bubble due to a couple of personal and family reasons.
First, his wife Chesca had just given birth to their fourth child, their first baby girl. And second, he has just gone under knife for an appendectomy days prior to the team’s departure to the tournament site.
But at the prodding of PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, San Miguel Corp. sports director and Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua and Chesca herself made him change his mind.
Came March, 2023, Tenyente, as he is referred to by the country’s basketball community, had, a few days ago, announced that he was diagnosed as to have been suffering from Stage 3 Colon Cancer, leading many to believe that his days of longevity were over and fans, especially, inquiring whether they will be seeing LA coming down the floor again or not?
Never see his little grin as he outmaneuvers his defender around like a yo-yo then suddenly bursts with a behind-the-back, no look pass to an open teammate for a baseline jumper?
“Never see that again?” asked a fan, a man on the street-friend and a loyal reader of this sportswriter, via a text message a day after LA’s social media announcement.
But based on that interview by this reporter in December, 2020 and recent stories by media men, plus LA statements himself following his announcement, this 17-year pro and father of three boys and a baby girl with wife Cheska won’t leave the sports he loves most and its fans just yet.
“I will return to basketball,” the superstar reportedly told PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial two days before the 17-year veteran made an announcement through the league’s website that he will be stepping away as he battles the Big C.
And the commissioner of five years believes him as well as fans and members of the basketball community, do, too.
“I believe him,” Marcial assured this writer Saturday evening. “LA is the PBA’s ‘Iron Man.’ He owns a legacy that he’s ready to fight for to prove he can go beyond the 744 games he has so far played.”
“I am not yet retiring from the game I love, and with the help of the best doctors in the Philippines and Singapore, I believe I can touch a basketball once more and return stronger,” Tenorio himself declared in a statement he released via the league’s official website when he announced his latest off-court battle.
Which, of course, drew elation from PBA legends Alvin Patriminio, Atoy Co and Jerry Codinera, who all expressed happiness to the 36-year-old’s brave heart and love for the sport his countrymen consider theier favorite pastime.
Codinera, a long-time bossom friend of Patrimonio at the Purefoods franchise owned by the RSA (Ramon S. Ang) Group of San Miguel Corp. who was diagnosed as suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, an asymtomatic, no cure or prevention disease in the early years of his pro career, cautioned LA in his statement of returning to playing again as soon as possible.
“Colon cancer is a stress-related sickness, meds o virus. So, hindi kailangan ni LA na mag-isip na bumalik agad sa basketball, gustuhin man niya,” the now 56 –year-old son of baseball/softball great Filomeno “Boy” Codinera told this writer in a separate conversation, also last Saturday.
“My advice to him, therefore, is kalimutan muna niya ang basketball. Let his body recover completely. Don’t stress himself so much by thinking of returning immediately. Baka instead of recovering makasamapa lalo,” Codinera, whose 1.96-meter physical attribute made the owner of the league record 11 block shots in a single game, suggested.
To which Patrimonio, one of only two players to have won the league MVP four times and from whom LA took the ‘Iron Man’ honor, agreed completely to his pal’s observation.
“Returning to basketball is easy. Tama si Jerry, magpagaling ka muna fully for your sake, wife Cheska’s and children’s who are all still very young. Kawawa naman sila kung ano man mangyari sa ‘yo.”
‘We’re all athletes and as such, kasama natin ang ating pamilya sa ating career at adhikain. Take it easy, LA, your time to return to the sport we all love will come. Trust the Lord, ibabalik ka niya ng ni hindi mo nalalaman. Kasama sa aking araw-araw na dalanging makabalik ka agad,” Patriminio vowed.
One of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers’ greatest products, the 1979 PBA MVP Atoy Co, has this to say: “It’s good to learn mabuti na ang lagay mo, Mr. Iron Man, and that na-agapan agad. But don’t be complacent, mag-ingat ka pa rin lalo for your sake, Kawawa pamilya, especially your children na still very young. Yang sakit na cancer, traydor yan bigla na lang umaatake. Ingat, LA. Stay safe and healthy always!” (Reprinted from philboxing.com)