Remembering The Tower of Power in the P.B.A.

* I was lucky to have had “The Tower of Power” Benjie Paras as a schoolmate in High School. That early, the legend of Paras was slowly but surely gaining momentum. Paras was getting a lot of buzz, primarily of 2 things: His ability to block shots (‘galing bumutata’), & his 2-handed slams.

* Like Mr. Alvarez, Paras was gifted w/ exceptional vertical leaping ability. Give him a ball when he’s standing underneath the basket, & he will go straight up & dunk the ball. With both hands. And w/ supreme authority, defining the phrase “slamming the ball into the basket”. ‘Alang grace-grace ke Benjie. Basta dakdak.’

* Another vivid memory I have about Paras, was on his 1st or 2nd year in the UAAP, in a game when his team UP went up against FEU. FEU then also relatively good center in the person of the late Jack Tanuan. In one play, Jack thought he had gotten away from Paras & went for a one-handed slam to the basket. Just as he was about to slam it in, Paras intervened, & caught the ball in mid-air. ‘Huling-huli ang bola.’ When they both landed, Tanuan had a stare down w/ Paras, & for a minute there, I thought there was going to be a Heavy Weight boxing match if the 6’5″, 230 lb. Tanuan would throw a punch at the equally tall & heavy Paras. But Tanuan turned around, & started running down the court. Paras extended his hand, & Tanuan tapped it back.

* One unique move I saw Benjie do consistently, was getting the ball w/ the basket behind him, turning around, then leaping up & slamming it in w/ both hands. He usually does this on the rare instances when nobody was bodying up on him in the paint, or if the defense came in late. It was wonderful to watch, the pivot, leap & double-handed slam.

* In his early years in the PBA, there almost never was a game that passed by that he did not have one of his patented two-handed slams into the basket. As the years passed, though, those slams of course got less & less, as he lost more & more the spring from his legs.

* Counting out the PBA’s inaugural year, Paras was the league’s first Rookie-MVP. Which is just as well, since it’s not every day, or every decade, that you get to see a rookie hitting 26 ppg on his rookie year.

* The sad thing, is that Paras was never really able to duplicate his scoring average in his rookie year. In fact, it seemed his numbers went into a steady decline into nothingness. Nevertheless, “The Tower of Power” definitely was one of the Philippine Basketball’s most memorable dunkers of all time.

(Thanks to Anthony Servino for the stats).

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