PBA great Bong Alvarez, known as "Mr. Excitement", dazzled basketball fans for 16 years with his high-flying act, which he admitted was influenced by Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
The six-foot Alvarez wore no. 6 during his years with San Sebastian College, but switched to no. 21 when he began playing for the Alaska Airmen in 1989 as a rookie in the PBA.
"I wore jersey no. 6 in college because that was the time Dr. J was a well-known dunker in the NBA. And then in 1984, I watched the games of Michael Jordan who was wearing no. 23 on his jersey," Alvarez recalled in an episode of An Eternity of Basketball.
"When I started playing in the PBA, Ricric Marata wore (jersey) no. 23. I had to give way so I settled for no. 21, which was the jersey number of Dominique Wilkins. He was also my favorite player."
Alvarez, now 51, said he was blessed with incredible leaping ability that allowed him to soar over defenders.
"I could dunk by just taking off one foot, which is actually difficult to do. But I did a lot of that during practice where I take off instantly from one side of the paint and dunk on the other," he said.
The PBA's high flyers of the 80s and 90s
Bong Alvarez talks about the aerial exploits of Samboy Lim, Vergel Meneses and other high-flying players of his era.
The two-time PBA Comeback Player belonged to an era of high-flying stars like Samboy Lim, Vergel Meneses, Benjie Paras and Nelson Asaytono. But among those established stars, Alvarez said he was particularly impressed with Lim.
"Samboy stays in the air quite long. He has the hops and really glides in the air horizontally," Alvarez said of Lim, who went by the monicker "The Skywalker".
"When he glides in the air for a layup, you're already back down on the floor while he's still in the air."
Despite his exciting style of play, Alvarez eventually left Alaska following a contract dispute as he was traded to Sta. Lucia heading into the 1993 season. After his brief stint with Sta. Lucia, he moved over to Shell, before landing with San Miguel Beer.
He had high hopes for a clean slate with the Beermen, saying he was then coach Norman Black's personal choice. But Black was eventually replaced by former national coach Ron Jacobs at the end of the 1996 season.
"When Coach Norman left the team, and Coach Ron came in, the winds changed for me so I had to leave again. It was kind of downhill for my career from there," Alvarez said.
Following his stint with SMB, Alvarez played briefly for Ginebra before eventually joining the fledgling Metropolitan Basketball Association in 1999.
Alvarez saw action for the Pampanga Dragons and Pasig Pirates, then flew to the United States to play for the Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs in the USBL. He made a return to the PBA in 2002. He played for FedEx and Talk 'N Text, before ending his career with Red Bull in 2005.