After 663 straight games, LA Tenorio can finally call himself a Philippine Cup champion.
Straight off emergency appendectomy in the prolonged off-season, the 36-year-old guard willed himself through the unique PBA bubble in Pampanga, and finally got the one title that eluded his grasp for the last 14 years.
Little did the PBA’s undisputed “Iron Man” know that he would also get Finals MVP honors for his tremendous effort against TNT Tropang Giga.
“All-Filipino championship lang yung hinihingi ko sa Panginoon, pero binigyan pa ako ng bonus,” he said after winning his sixth PBA title. “Pero thank you, thank you first and foremost kay Lord for giving the whole team the strength. Sobra ang pinagdaanan namin dito sa bubble.”
(I was just praying for an All-Filipino championship, but I even got a bonus. Thank you first and foremost to the Lord for giving the whole team strength. We went through a whole lot here in the bubble.)
While the floor “Gineral’s” finals averages of 13.6 points, 6.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals may not look too appealing on paper, Tenorio made plays when it mattered most as he led Ginebra in the clutch for their close wins in Games 1, 2, and 4.
Given everything he has gone through even before the bubble started, Tenorio is just grateful that his teammates and coaches never left his side as he fast-tracked his road to recovery.
“Bago ako nakapasok dito, marami kaming pinagdaanan talaga. Gusto kong magpasalamat sa mga teammates ko. Sa lahat talaga, sinuportahan nila ako nung time na kailangan kong maghabol,” he said.
“Our training staff, our PTs, our coaching staff, and especially kay coach Tim [Cone], talagang binigyan niya ako ng chance ulit to play kahit meron akong karamdaman,” he continued.
(Before I got here, we all went through a lot. I want to thank my teammates for supporting me when I needed to catch up. Our training staff, our PTs, our coaching staff, and especially coach Tim, gave me the chance to play even though I was ailing.)
As for Cone, who extended his run as the league’s winningest coach with his unparalleled 23rd title, he was likely the least surprised when Tenorio was voted as the Finals MVP.
“He was the driving force through this whole bubble. Even though he came in not 100% from his surgery – I think he came in maybe 30% – he still figured out a way to battle through it,” he said in the post-game presser.
“But even at that moment, he was immediately talking up the fact that this was the All-Filipino. He hadn’t won one, we hadn’t won one in a long time, and it was special, we need to really come up.”
Sure enough, Ginebra had not won the Philippine Cup in 13 years prior to this conference, and when the former five-peat reigning champion San Miguel went down in the second round this year, Tenorio knew this was their best shot to finally win it all.
“He drove us motivationally throughout this whole tournament,” Cone continued. “And that’s why more than just the points, the shots or whatever, to me that’s why he was our MVP of this bubble.”
With the All-Filipino Cup finally added to his impressive stash of hardware, Tenorio is now also a four-time Finals MVP, with his fourth award coming exactly 10 years after the first.
He has also joined legends Danny Seigle and James Yap as the only four-time winners of the award.
And with a lot of gas likely left in his tank as proven by this conference alone, the PBA’s Iron Man will continue to fly high. – Rappler.com