My Toughest Matchup, as told by Jojo Lastimosa

Jojo Lastimosa's best years in the PBA were with the Alaska Milkmen. Ernie Sarmiento/ESPN5

Editor's note: This was originally published on October 11, 2018.

Jojo Lastimosa's PBA career started in 1988 as a direct hire of the Purefoods franchise alongside Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, and Glenn Capacio. He stood out in his first year as he bagged Rookie of the Year honors. He did not have to wait long for his first championship as the Baby Dalupan-led squad won the 1990 Third Conference title against Alaska.

However, his best years came when he played for the Alaska franchise where he won nine more PBA championships, including the 1996 PBA Grand Slam. Lastimosa is widely known as one of the top guards the country has ever produced. He's a member of the PBA's 25 Greatest Players and is one of only seven ballers who scored more than 12,000 points in their careers.

ESPN5.com talked to Lastimosa, who is an assistant coach of the NLEX Road Warriors, to find out who the players he considered as his best matchups were.

Lastimosa on offense

Guarding Lastimosa was something one had to prepare for. He averaged 15.2 points throughout his 14-year PBA stint even if his numbers took a hit when he played for Pop Cola late in his career.

"There were a lot of guys because normally there's always a designated player on me," Lastimosa said. "The best offensive player on the other side, even if we're the same position, will not guard me. There's always a specific player whose role is to try and slow me down or stop me."

Lastimosa has a shortlist of defenders that were often matched up against him but his specific choice as the toughest to deal with is more known for being on the same team as him as opposed to against.

"I can remember, in the PBA, Choy Estrada, Art Dela Cruz, Mike Mustre, all of them were defenders who were assigned to pester me, just to get under my skin. In every team they have that guy," he shared.

"But I think I had the toughest time against Bong Hawkins (played for Presto and Sta. Lucia before being traded to Alaska in 1993), when he was not with us yet, I remember having a hard time matching up against him and that's the reason why I told coach Tim (Cone) that we had to get him so I can score already.

"He was giving me fits because he was big and because he knew how to anticipate. We only see each other twice in a conference so it was not a lot but I just remember having a hard time against him. I probably figured it out at some point but he was not exclusively defending me."

Lastimosa on defense

Remember when Lastimosa said that the best scorers on the other side were often kept away from defending him? Well, the same could not be said of him. While he was one of the leading scorers for Alaska, he was also required to play tough defense.

"It's different because unlike other scorers during our time, I was asked to guard the best scorer on the other team and I always had a hard time against Vergel (Meneses)," Lastimosa admitted.

"He's so much taller than me and he's so athletic. He can post up and he has quick moves so he was really a tough cover for me. I'm okay with shooters like Allan (Caidic) because I just needed to work hard, run, and fight against screens. But in terms of one-on-one, Vergel was the toughest matchup for me," he continued. "He had a lot of moves. He can take you low, he can take you high. He can take you off the dribble and in the open court, so many different ways. And he also developed his perimeter shot which made him even tougher to guard."

Toughest matchup

For Lastimosa's toughest matchup overall, he selected another aerial artist. More than offensive and defensive tactics, his selection was mostly because he played like he had something to prove whenever they went up against each other.

"Samboy (Lim)," Lastimosa answered curtly.

"I had some really fun times going against Samboy. I took it as a challenge because we were teammates on the national team and he was more senior than me. When we were teammates, I was behind them so when we went into the PBA, I wanted to prove myself," he continued.

"It was always a good matchup. I took that to heart because facing him was always a challenge. Back in the 90s when Samboy was playing really well, when he gets into the open court you won't be able to do anything else but to foul him. He's strong so you just look for ways to slow him down and not let him get any sort of momentum. Most of the time it was Art Dela Cruz matched up against me on defense. I like matching up with Samboy because he was so creative - that's why they call him 'The Skywalker,' but it meant that I had to be more creative on defense, too."