MANILA, Philippines – Jimmy Alapag will officially wrap-up his playing career this weekend at the PBA All-Star festivities in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The 37-year old highly-revered Talk ’N Text guard of 12 years, who announced his retirement in January after the Philippine Cup, will be participating in his final PBA All-Star showcase, where he will punctuate a decorated career with his jersey retirement ceremony during the main event on Sunday, March 8.
"It's a huge honor," he said of his jersey retirement. "I really appreciate the PBA doing it in the All-Star Weekend. It really means a lot especially to my family. Being there with two kids now, it's very special for me to have them, to signify the end of this chapter in my life."
Alapag’s jersey retirement was previously scheduled at the start of the Commissioner’s Cup, but was moved to the annual All-Star Weekend.
It’s a fitting encore for Alapag, who was an 11-time All-Star throughout his career.
The 6-time PBA champion will see action for the last time in the All-Star Game, where he will play side by side once again with former teammate Asi Taulava, who has defied odds and is still playing at a high level at 42 years old.
"Asi and I, we go back a long time even before our time in the PBA,” Alapag said of Taulava, who was his Talk 'N Text teammate from 2003 to 2007.
“Asi is like a big brother to me and to get an opportunity to get out there and compete on the same side one more time, that's gonna be a lot of fun.”
Both Alapag and Taulava will be leading a talented cast of South All-Stars that include James Yap, Mark Barroca, and Greg Slaughter. Big man June Mar Fajardo was part of the same lineup but was reportedly ruled out due to a severe ankle sprain.
They will be going up against the North All-Stars comprised of Mark Caguioa, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, and Alapag’s former backcourt partner Jayson Castro.
"That would be weird to say the least," Alapag said of facing Castro. "I was fortunate the last 7 years of my career to be with Jayson, to really see his growth as a person and as a basketball player.”
Alapag's ties with Castro go far deeper as both men went to battle together for flag and country.
“It will be a little awkward being on opposite sides, but then again, the All-Star Game is really about the fans, and we're gonna try our best to go out there and pull off a great game."
To truly put on an entertaining show, Taulava previously expressed he’d like to switch things up a little bit and have him and the other big men play the wings. While Alapag and the guards will be the ones posting up and protecting the rim this time.
Alapag seemed open to the idea of changing his game to close out his playing career.
"I guess that means I'm playing the center position, so that will be the first time in 12 years,” he said laughing.
South coach Alex Compton, meanwhile, already drew up a play for them.
“Maybe we gotta put those guys [Taulava, Slaughter] in the 3-point line, then iso-post Jimmy and see if they [opponents] double him, then kick it out to Asi or Greg for the three,” he said matter-of-factly.
Alapag, a one-time Three-point Shootout champion, will also see if he still has more left in the tank to bring home a trophy from the side event.
He will be up against the likes of reigning Three-point champion Mark Macapagal, as well as former champions Chris Tiu and Dondon Hontiveros.
"I need to get to the gym and practice a little bit. There's some tough competition," said Alapag, whose career three-point shooting average is 36%.
"I'm going out there and enjoy my time, have fun. That's really what's the All-Star Week is all about."
The PBA All-Star Weekend is from March 6 to 8, with the Rookies vs Sophomores game along with the Obstacle Challenge, Three-point Shootout, and Slam Dunk Contest happening on Friday, March 6.
The All-Star Game featuring the North and South All-Star teams will be played on Sunday, March 8. – Rappler.com