There was something in the Alaska Aces that made them a unique team in the Philippine Basketball Association.
After 14 championship trophies, including one grand slam under coach Tim Cone, to go with 31 finals appearances in 36 seasons, Alaska is finally bidding the league goodbye.
The Uytengsu family, led by Alaska team owner Wilfred Uytengsu, always serves as an example of how to behave during games. He was always a man of composure whether in times of losing or winning.
Blen Fernando, the longest-serving marketing executive of Alaska until 2019, shared the mantra that became the team’s foundation in its three decades of membership in the PBA.
“What made us different was our way of running the team—from top management to the staff of the entire company. Integrity, discipline, hard work, determination, and teamwork. Nothing less. We were probably the only PBA team who followed the rules, stood on our decisions and on issues affecting the community. There were no superstars in the team. Everyone had a clear role. These values were the bedrock of the team and of the company,” said Fernando, who started her marketing career with the Alaska franchise owner in 2009.
Belen said her marketing team saw to it that they watched every Alaska game, keeping tabs and making sure that their players nurture the team’s corporate principle that they were built for.
“We built and evolved the Alaska Milkmen to Alaska Aces along with the basketball management team – from a mediocre team to a classy, well-bred, disciplined, and one of the winningest teams in the PBA,” she said.
Charlie Favis, former team manager of the defunct Shell squad, also revealed that he considered Alaska as their“best friend” in the PBA. And it was the Shell people, who persuaded Alaska to join the pro league.
“Nakakalungkot. Among all the teams in the PBA during my time, Alaska and Shell were very close. In fact, one year after Shell joined the PBA, Shell invited Alaska to join and they did,” he said.
Favis added Alaska Governor Joaqui Trillo “trained in my office for one week” when he was about to assume the role of Alaska team manager.
“I also brought the Alaska team abroad to play with us in Australia (twice) and Guam (4 times). Sad day. Thanks for the memories,” said Favis.
Because of the way Alaska conducts its business properly, it got nothing but respect from its peers in the board of team governors.
Rain or Shine team owner Raymund Yu said: “I feel a genuine sadness with the departure of Alaska. Nothing but respect for a classy organization. Indeed, they won with integrity.”
Louie Navarro, former editor of the defunct but once-popular Sports Weekly Magazine, remembers having featured Alaska’s “Fearsome Foursome”, the six-time PBA champion and one-time Best Import Sean Chambers, and local stalwarts Jojo Lastimosa, Bong Hawkins, and Johnny Abarrientos.
Navarro said they “formed Alaska’s vaunted offensive nucleus in the ‘90s that clinched a rare grand slam.”
Navarro thought, however, that the magazine cover was actually a boo-boo.
“Sean’s head was too small for Superman’s huge frame, while Jolas, Bong and Johnny were like ‘manananggals’ (mythical self-segmenter with vampire-like appearance) in basketball jerseys, obviously clueless as to what the heck they were doing there with their lower torso missing?” said Navarro.
It was good that social media was not yet the fad at that time so Navarro didn’t have to worry about the bashers.
Fast forward to the current time, Alaska player Jeron Teng had to take the news with the pain of saying goodbye.
In his Twitter post, Teng used the hashtags “ThelastDance and #WenotMe” in his tribute to the team that has been his home for the last four years.
“It’s been an honor to play for the franchise. This will be our last conference as the Alaska Aces, will definitely make it count,” said Teng.
One of Alaska’s loyal fans since 1995, Gerard Advincula, said he will always cherish the memories of watching the games and hob-knobbing with his favorite Alaska players.
“It’s just so hard to accept. My PBA addiction won’t be the same without you. We sure are gonna miss this team, the greatest franchise in PBA history. I just hope and pray that you end this conference on a winning note,” he said.
In their hearts and their minds, “Wala pa ring tatalo sa Alaska.”