With every rebound over players towering over him in size, every layup made in the smallest of spaces in areas that are primarily reserved only for giants, the cheers grew louder and louder. On a team with future Hall-of-Famers, an all-time great import and a legendary coach patrolling the sideline, the man that stood out, captivating the throngs of Barangay Ginebra fans with his every move on the court, was none other than Scottie Thompson.
He trooped to the free throw line early in the third period, part of a backbreaking, championship-clinching storm that limited San Miguel to only 8 points the entire quarter. The shouts started out slowly, only a brave few in the nosebleed sections daring to voice their selection.
But it soon caught steam. Soon, all the NSD faithful in the Mall of Asia Arena had made their voice known. Unofficially, they cast their vote for Finals MVP. Scottie Thompson was their choice.
"I never thought I would be Finals MVP," Thompson confessed as the smoke cleared after Ginebra's 93-77 Game 6, 4-2 series win over the San Miguel Beermen. "First of all, all I wanted to do is help my team win this championship. That's all I wanted to happen tonight. We have Greg, LA - so many players played well this series.
"They all deserve to be MVP," Thompson said. "But tonight, we deserved this championship more."
Thompson isn't your prototypical Finals MVP awardee. He's not a dominating force like June Mar Fajardo, or the team's closer like two-time Finals MVP LA Tenorio. His averages of 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists don't stand out from the crowd. He had teammates that scored more, rebounded more, and assisted more.
But raw stats reflected on a box score have never been able to encapsulate the effect of Scottie Thompson on Barangay Ginebra. To truly appreciate the effect of the third-year player from University of Perpetual Help, you need to be there in the moment. Thompson's rebounds over players like Fajardo, Balkman and even his own teammates Greg Slaughter and Justin Brownlee are absolute game changers that electrify their team and the crowd. Yet it only counts as one rebound in the box score.
Thompson's impact on Ginebra can be seen in how he affects everyone around him. And that's where his true value lies.
"That dude is like Superman sometimes," import Justin Brownlee said. "Just seeing that, it definitely gets me excited. He's not the biggest on the floor, but he can rebound with the best of them. That type of energy translates to the rest of the team. It just boosts the morale of the team when we see stuff like that."
That energy was on full display in the third period as Thompson created chaos en route to a 27-8 quarter in favor of the challengers. Thompson scored, assisted and grabbed boards over players taller than him. That invigorated his team, and the crowd around him. It turned what was a tight ballgame at halftime into a coronation when the fourth period started.
It's hard to imagine now, but Ginebra was in serious jeopardy early in this series, down 1-2 to the defending champions. Many people had left them for dead, anticipating the Beermen ready to drop the hammer and send Ginebra to their vacation.
But Thompson wouldn't allow his team to fall. Slowly, Ginebra dug themselves out of the hole, first via the 130-100 Game 4 blowout, then their masterful defensive performance in Game 5. Thompson was brilliant in that game as well, clutch shots and defensive stops all the way until they clawed their way a victory and the series lead.
"Game 4 was the turning point because we needed to tie the series," Thompson said. "We followed the game plan of Coach Tim. Every game plan, we tried to figure out how to execute. And that was the turning point."
Ginebra's poise and response to adversity led them to Game 6, and a chance to win the championship and avoid having to face the Beermen in a high-pressure Game 7 situation. And on that stage, Thompson delivered. He filled the stat sheet once again, notching 12 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. With every move he made, he took the fans' breath away. And with every heroic contribution, the team responded and broke through the pain and fatigue to grab the Commissioner's Cup title for the first time in 21 years.
"The intangibles that Scottie brings to the table, sometimes it probably wouldn't get recognized," Brownlee shared. "As a team, we pride ourselves on doing the little things, and Scottie just happens to be good at all the little things. That's what makes him a great player. I just love his effort. It is unmatched on the court."
As Thompson reflected on what he was able to accomplish, he bared a fact that perhaps not everyone is aware of - he hears every single scream, shout and cheer when he does Scottie Thompson things on the floor. Many players try to play it cool when they're competing in the hardwood, unwilling to admit or bend to the will of the fans in attendance.
But Thompson finally let his guard down, as the championship was brought to the Barangay. "I see it in the fans, and in my teammates, that they find joy in what I do," Thompson bared. "So I try to keep it going. I know that I'll come to a point in my career that the scoring will come. But for now, I just want to help my team win the championship."
With every cheer, Thompson jumps higher, shoots better, and passes with more accuracy. And on the biggest stage, it has taken him to the top, as a newly crowned Finals MVP for the first time in his career.