Taulava says becoming first PBA player to play in four decades is 'biggest goal'

The idea never crossed his mind before, but Asi Taulava wants to pull off a Vince Carter.

Carter is the only NBA player to have played in four decades and Taulava hopes to achieve the same feat and etch his name in the history books this season to become the first PBA player to play in four separate decades.

Taulava, the NLEX center who is the oldest active PBA cager, entered the league as a direct hire in 1999.

"That's something that's never been on my mind. I never thought about it. But I was like 'this is a great goal to work for,'" said Taulava.

He would've already achieved it if the season hadn't stopped in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 47-year-old Taulava, though, has been using the time off to rest his body after years of non-stop basketball-related activities, and is now making sure he stays in shape especially now that the PBA has been given the green light to return to practice.

"With this break we have, it gave my body a chance to rest. I feel fresh again, ready to go back to the gym and start working again," he said on 2OT on Saturday. "Best thing for me right now is stay in shape, stay active, and keep working out. The biggest goal for me right now is to be the first player to play four decades."

Taulava had earlier said the Philippine Cup would be his last conference, but he hinted at an extension should NLEX coach Yeng Guiao require his services.

"It's whatever Coach Yeng wants. At the end of the day it's his team. He makes the decision. It's what the man needs with his team. I've enjoyed the ride. Whatever Coach Yeng needs, I'm there," he said.

Either way, Taulava wants to go out the same way he came in.

"You don't wanna sit around and get in there and play like one minute or two minutes. I wanna go out and give it everything I got," said Taulava, who was the 2003 PBA MVP. "And if I can help the young guys win a championship, that's the best way to end your career."

Remembering Gilas stint in 2015

"They still want Lolo to show up?"

That was the initial reaction of Taulava when he was named to the pool of the national team preparing for the FIBA Asia Championship in 2015.

He showed up, and the week-long training camp in Cebu under then head coach Tab Baldwin almost had him throwing in the towel. But he soldiered on.

"I guess for me, the motivation at the time was I can't quit because Dray (Blatche) was there. If I quit, Dray might go crazy. He might not want to go training because Coach Tab's practices were insane. I think it was one week in Cebu, behind closed doors, non-stop drills, running," he recalled on the podcast.

Training was, for lack of a better term, hard. But it didn't take long before Taulava realized the gains from training under Baldwin.

"But I appreciate Tab for doing that. Now I understand the game. It's not just about playing basketball or lifting weights. There's also the mind part," he said. "It helped me when I got to Coach Yeng, the thinking part. You gotta do your homework. You gotta study your opponents. We had long hours of viewing."

All the hard work paid off. Despite being widely regarded as the national team's "Team B" before the tournament got going, that squad went the distance. That 2015 Gilas team could have won it all, but things didn't really go their way in the finals against home team China.

"It was so disheartening to see that. You know you're not given a chance. No matter what you do it's not gonna be enough, because it felt like 8-on-5 out there," he said. "We just hoped that final game was played somewhere else instead of China. China is China. If we were hosting it would be a different story."

For Taulava, though, it was a tournament to remember.

"Thanks to Coach Tab, Dray, Dondon (Hontiveros), Jayson (Castro), I ended up with my first medal. One from the Jones Cup (silver), and then in that FIBA tournament. That was the best feeling," he said. "I've enjoyed the ride. It was fun, from day 1 to the last day with that team. It was awesome."