Taulava, Baguio to retire from PBA after Philippine Cup

Asi Taulava will play one more conference before retiring from the PBA. PBA Media Group

Asi Taulava and Cyrus Baguio will play one more conference with the NLEX Road Warriors before retiring from the PBA.

Baguio and Taulava will carry a combined 38 seasons of experience when they step away from the game at the conclusion of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.

Taulava has amassed a fine resume as one of the 40 greatest players in league history, which boasts an MVP award, Best Player of the Conference, a championship, and a Finals MVP award in the 2003 season with Talk 'N Text.

He is also a 17-time PBA All-Star, twice earning the All-Star Game MVP honors, and earned Mythical First Team and Second Team distinctions four times each, and was recognized as one of the league's best defenders thrice.

The 46-year-old Taulava has also brought pride to the country by representing the Philippines on numerous occasions, including the Asian Games, and a silver medal finish in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.

Baguio, meanwhile, won three titles and a Finals MVP he shared with LA Tenorio, was named an 11-time All-Star, and was twice made the Mythical Second Team.

Baguio's high-flying acrobatics earned him the moniker "Skyrus," which bore a Slam Dunk title in 2004.

"I convinced coach Yeng [Guiao] to play for just one conference. I had already played for a long time. But I'm grateful I lasted 17 seasons in the PBA," Baguio told ESPN5.com after their practice Monday.

He said he didn't want to deprive younger stars of the opportunity to shine, and added he wanted to avoid injury as well.

For Taulava, a bitter end in the 2019 Governor's Cup playoffs and a strong chance for redemption became the prime motivating factors in postponing his retirement.

NLEX clinched the top seed in the season-ending conference, but were upset in two straight games by the 8th-seeded NorthPort, including the triple-overtime loss which ended their promising season earlier than expected.

Taulava suffered the same fate in his rookie season, when Barangay Ginebra upset Mobiline in the quarterfinals of the 1999 PBA All Filipino Cup, courtesy of the heroics of Bal David.

"That was the motivation to lace my shoes back up. Right after that last game [vs NorthPort] I was so mad, went right back and kept working on keeping myself in shape. We wanna push. We've got a great bunch," Taulava explained.

With a solid lineup containing Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Poy Erram and Jericho Cruz, NLEX has the tools to contend for the Philippine Cup title, which has been won by the San Miguel Beermen the past five years.

"I wanna leave with a bang. All are strength and conditioning coaches are there helping us, they're pushing us really hard. Hopefully we get that bang so I can hang up my shoes, lay back and sit back on my rocking chair, have a barbecue at three in the afternoon and think about these guys," added Taulava.

Guiao, who stated that there was not much convincing needed for the two to return, said the swan song of Taulava and Baguio will serve as fuel for the squad.

"We want to give due respect to the service of these guys. Not only to our team, but also to the PBA and their fans throughout the years," said Guiao. "I guess one way of doing that is giving them a nice sendoff if we can perform well, semifinals, finals if lucky...We gave ourselves a chance. But we're very confident we can do better this conference."