RETIREMENT. Fifty-year-old Asi Taulava has retired after 24 years in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in a fitting farewell ceremony during the halftime of the NLEX’s game against TNT Tropang Giga at the PhilSports Arena on Wednesday night, December 13, 2023. PBA PHOTOS
Asi Taulava, the enduring giant of Philippine basketball, officially called it a career after 24 years in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
The 50-year-old center, known for his dominating presence and unwavering commitment, bid farewell during a heartfelt jersey retirement ceremony held at halftime of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup game between TNT and NLEX at Philsports Arena.
Surrounded by his entire family, Taulava’s no. 88 jersey was raised to the rafters in a symbolic gesture that encapsulated a career filled with highs and lows.
Activated before the game to make it official, Taulava joined the starting unit alongside Rob Herndon, Matt Nieto, rookie Enoch Valdez, and import Stokley Chaffee.
In a graceful exit, the former league MVP played for almost two minutes, securing a rebound before being taken out.
Despite NLEX’s 113-97 loss to TNT, the defeat couldn’t overshadow the significance of the moment as Taulava bid farewell to the sport he has dedicated his life to.
Reflecting on his illustrious career, Taulava expressed mixed emotions, saying, “It’s done. I’m sad and happy. But it’s been a good journey. A long 24 years. Nothing to complain about. I’m grateful. Grateful to the PBA, grateful to NLEX.”
Present to witness Taulava’s farewell were key figures from his basketball journey, including former coaches Yeng Guiao and Franz Pumaren, former Coca-Cola team governor JB Baylon, and Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy, who played a pivotal role in bringing Taulava to the Philippines in 1997 as part of his Blue Detergent team.
NLEX team governor Ronald Dulatre and Commissioner Willie Marcial were also in attendance as Taulava received his framed no. 88 NLEX jersey.
The ceremony held special significance as it took place at the Philsports Arena, the same venue where Taulava made his debut game for TNT 24 years ago.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Taulava admitted, “Words can’t explain how I feel. I was trying to keep it together. I didn’t want to cry in front of the young guys, especially since I know their dads. Just being here, it’s just awesome.”
Taulava’s legacy is etched in PBA history. He was named MVP in 2003, securing his first and only PBA championship.
With a record 17 All-Star game appearances, four-time Mythical First Team, four-time Mythical Second Team, and inclusion in the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players, Taulava’s impact on Philippine basketball is immeasurable.
He played for TNT, Coca-Cola, Meralco, and Air21, and spent the last nine seasons of his illustrious career with NLEX.
In a remarkable feat, Taulava also joined the legendary Robert Jaworski as the only player to participate in a PBA game at the age of 50, solidifying his status as a true icon of the sport.