Arnaiz on Jaworski: His specialty was he did everything

Francis Arnaiz: Jaworski specialized in everything (1:20)

Francis Arnaiz talks about Sonny Jaworski's diverse skillset. (1:20)

Coming to the defense of his former backcourt partner Robert "Sonny" Jaworski, legendary PBA guard Francis Arnaiz believes the "Big J" was a jack-of-all-trades type of player who could do numerous things on the hardcourt.

"I think there was an issue about somebody saying he (Jaworski) doesn't have any specialty in the game. Nothing against Atoy (Co), but you must remember that Sonny was all over," Arnaiz said in Friday's episode of the An Eternity of Basketball podcast of Charlie Cuna, Sid Ventura, and Noel Zarate.

"He can rebound, assist, shoot three points, go for the drive. Wherever he is needed, he's there, that's why yes, people call me 'Mr. Clutch' but I think he was Mr. Clutch before me. Yes, maybe he doesn't have any specialty because he does everything. That was his specialty."

Arnaiz's comments came on the heels of Co's remark about Jaworski, whom he called "an average player" who didn't have a trademark move, during a recent episode of the basketball podcast.

Arnaiz, who turned 69 on the day he was interviewed, maintains a high respect for the PBA's only "Living Legend", noting how his passion for the game eventually gave birth to the "never say die" spirit that Ginebra is now known for.

Arnaiz and Jaworski moved to Gilbey's Gin, the original name of the Ginebra franchise, when Toyota disbanded in early 1984.

"I don't really think they (Gilbey's Gin) had the spirit of what Ginebra is now. But I strongly believe the one who brought that (never-say-die) spirit there was Sonny Jaworski. That was what he gave to Ginebra, to the company, his spirit," stressed Arnaiz, who won 10 PBA championships with the "Big J" during their long, fruitful partnership in the pro league that began in 1975 with Toyota.

"Sonny gave that spirit to Ginebra when he started joining that team. I played the same way. I always played a hundred percent because what I could do on the court, it was all out from the first quarter to the last, it was all out right away," he added.

"But the man responsible for the never-say-die spirit, that was Sonny, no doubt."

Arnaiz, a three-time PBA Mythical First Team member, shared an anecdote during the interview to prove his point that after all these years, Jaworski's imprint on the current Barangay Ginebra squad remains.

"Some two or three years ago, when Ginebra won the championship under Tim Cone, Sonny and I watched the game at the Araneta Coliseum for first time together in Manila. And when we entered the coliseum, this was in 2017 or 2018, this was way past (our time), right? The moment they saw Sonny going to his seat, the whole coliseum was (chanting) 'Ja-wor-ski!' 'Ja-wor-ski!' And this was in the middle of the game. That's him, that's the spirit," Arnaiz said proudly.

But a funny incident during that time was when Arnaiz said one PBA fan thought he was Yoyong Martirez, the former PBA player-turned TV comedian and later, councilor in the city of Pasig.

"They (fans) didn't even know who I was. They thought I was Martirez," Arnaiz said, before bursting into laughter. "We came out on the jumbotron. Someone actually commented, 'that's Martirez' when he was asked who was seated beside Jaworski."

Arnaiz retired towards the end of the 1986 season at age 35, shortly before Ginebra won its first PBA championship, and left the country to live and work in the United States.

In 613 games, Mr. Clutch owned PBA career averages of 16.8 points, 4.79 assists, 2.5 rebounds, while making 30.6 percent from three-point country. His partnership with Jaworski goes back to before the birth of the PBA as they first became teammates in 1971 on the Meralco team in the old Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA). They were also together on the national team that won the 1973 Asian Basketball Confederation title in Manila and eventually represented the country in the 1974 FIBA World Championship in Puerto Rico.