NLEX coach Yeng Guiao sees Asi Taulava as someone who is an important figure in Philippine basketball after becoming the first PBA cager to play in all four decades.
“Asi is a basketball institution,” Guiao said in Thursday’s media availability at the Quest Hotel in Clark, Pampanga.
Taulava made history Wednesday when he played nearly five minutes in the Road Warriors’ 103-100 loss to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
With the short appearance, the 47-year-old achieved the rare feat since he made his PBA debut in 1999 as a direct hire recruit of the Mobiline Phone Pals (now-TNT Tropang Giga).
Guiao is impressed with Taulava’s longevity, given that he started out a dominating figure in the paint before developing an outside game at the latter stages of his career.
It also marked the start of his 21st campaign in Asia’s first pay-for-play league, tying two-time Most Valuable Player Abet Guidaben for second all-time. The great Robert Jaworski holds the record with 23 seasons.
The current PBA season being played under a bubble setup is expected to be Taulava’s last.
Guiao also described Taulava, who enjoyed individual awards and at the same time endured controversies throughout his career, as part of a select group of players
“Asi is a natural leader and he is a natural attraction to the fans, and very few players in the PBA can compare to that kasi si Asi maglakad lang kahit saan alam mo siya na si Asi Taulava,” Guiao said.
“Just his physical stature and presence already commands your attention,” added Guiao, who was commissioner of the Philippine Basketball League when Taulava rose to the scene in 1998 as a member of Blu Detergent.
With Taulava likely to hang it up after the season, Guiao and the Road Warriors are hoping to give the veteran center a graceful exit.
“Gusto talaga namin siya makapagretire ng maganda, na successful,” said Guiao.