It definitely was the best of the best that Philippine Basketball could offer at that time. Coached by a living legend, Robert Jaworski, the team was composed mostly of past and future MVPs / Mythical 5 selection like Ramon Fernandez, Benjie Paras, Alvin Patrimonio, Hector Calma, Allan Caidic, Ronnie Magsanoc and Samboy Lim.
When the team arrived in Beijing, China, they attracted a lot of attention from the media there, primarily because it was the only all-professional squad in the world at that time that will be competing in amateur basketball for the first time. – The team was mobbed everywhere they went, and there was a sort of excitement and electricity in the air about the all-PBA team’s participation in the games.
The coaching staff was fondly referred to as the “Tatlong Itlog” during the duration of the tournament, mainly to the identical clothes they wore during the games. They all wore matching Black Sweaters over Long Sleeves and Ties during the tournament.
One vivid memory of those games was how Chito Loyzaga defended against the 7’7″ North Korean giant, Ri Myung Hun. The 6’2″-6’3″ Chito, whose head was only up to Ri’s solar plexus, did an excellent job on defense then. With his wide body, he just kept pushing Ri as far as possible from the basket whenever he was on the defensive end of the court. Classic, textbook post defense: Arms out, denying the passing lanes, and pushing Ri out with his wide chest. The diminutive Chito against the Nokor giant looked even comical, at times.
The Philippines had an impressive stint during the first few games of the tournament, until the Quarterfinals, when it had its first major test against the Chinese National team.
– The Chinese National squad was then bannered by Ma Jian, a 6’7″ NCAA Div. 1 prospect; And Song Li Gang, 6’9″, an US NCAA Div. I prospect.
– Their pride was naturally pricked by all the attention the “PBA Dream Team” was getting, so much so, that when the opportunity came, they went full throttle when they faced our squad. The result, was a disaster for the “PBA Dream Team”: 125-60.
– It was a nightmare. Everybody was shocked, including me. All this time, all the hype about our players being the “…world’s best pound-for-pound basketball players ….” as some PBA Analyst put it, went out the window. Things like, “… Our players look better on court with their individual, basketball skills …” just lost sense in that game.
– Some people even went on denial, like Recah Trinidad, who wrote a column saying that it was a “… One step back, two steps forward ….” move for the PBA. The implication, was that the PBA team did not play its best, and that it would get back at the Chinese National Team later. Of course, it was proven to be all B.S. when the team lost again to the Chinese later.
We were lucky, in that we did not get to face the South Korean National team at that time. They were eventually booted out by the Chinese National Team in a close game in the semi-finals, paving the way for a Silver Medal finish by the “PBA Dream Team”.
In the finals, the Chinese won by “only” 16 pts. against the “PBA Dream Team”, which was a significant improvement than the 65 pt. blow out we got in the Quarter finals from them.