In one rare occasion, key members of the Toyota team — one of the most well-loved franchises ever in the Philippine Basketball Association — gathered in Las Vegas and relived the glory days of their respective playing careers.
They met in two batches.
Four-time Most Valuable Player Ramon Fernandez, arguably the greatest player ever to play in the PBA, met with Francis Arnaiz, and they were joined by another old-timer, Rino Salazar, and Ricky Relosa, who played with them briefly when the team was still known as Super Corollas from 1982 to 1983.
Their chance encounter happened a few days ago at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
“It was a short one at the Delano Hotel of Mandalay Bay. We just had pizza,” said Fernandez, who was active in the sports scene until last year where he served as commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission.
The second meeting happened a day later, but this time, only Fernandez and Arnaiz were able to make it to meet Andy Fields — the greatest import ever to play for Toyota.
Known colloquially in the Pinoy basketball circuit as “Andres Bukid,” Fields led Toyota to championships in the 1979 Third Conference, the 1981 Open Conference and the 1982 Open Conference.
He was the Best Import in the 1981 Open Conference, which was the last time Toyota met bitter rival, Crispa, in a championship series that the Tamaraws won in five grueling games.
For Fields, meeting his two former teammates brought back a lot of great memories.
“We met at the Mandolin Bay Casino/Delano Hotel. Ricky and Rino couldn’t make it,” wrote Fields via Messenger to Daily Tribune.
“But it was excellent. We reminisced about the good times.”
Fields looked back at the times he spent playing in the PBA and those were cherished moments.
“Toyota organization was a class act, not to take away anything from the other organizations,” Fields said.
“They treated their players well. They bring quality imports as well to surround the great players (Robert) Jaworski, Arnaiz, Fernandez, (Arnie) Tuadles.”
For Fields, his most unforgettable moment was facing Crispa in the 1981 Open Conference where he was so motivated to win after their bitter loss to U/Tex the previous season.
The Tamaraws appeared to have the championship in the bag, but lost to the Wranglers, who stormed back from four points down in the last 16 seconds.
U/Tex won in overtime to complete one of the most unforgettable come-from-behind victories in a championship match.
Fields last played in the PBA in the 1983 season, the same season when Toyota folded up and eventually got sold to the Lucio Tan Group with Beer Hausen acquiring the franchise.
In 1985, when Jaworski was appointed as playing coach of Ginebra, he negotiated for Fields’ possible return, but the import was already tied up in the Euro League where he wrapped up his playing career.
Four decades since they last shared the court together, Fields, Fernandez and Arnaiz, got reunited, but this time, they could only reminisce about the great times.
The memories live on.
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