PBA fans from of the late 1980s will surely remember Dexter Shouse, the explosive import whose last two stints here ended controversially when he abruptly left his teams at crucial stages of each conference.
Shouse finally shed light on his reasons for leaving Shell Azocord in the 1987 Reinforced Conference and Purefoods in the 1989 Reinforced Conference during a recent podcast interview.
Shouse burst onto the PBA scene in the 1986 Open Conference as a wide-eyed, 23-year-old baller fresh out of the University of South Alabama. Known for his speed, athleticism and thunderous dunks, he wowed the crowd with his energy, hustle and scoring, helping the Shell Oilers to fifth place right in his maiden PBA stint in the 1986 Open Conference.
The American returned the following season to once again suit up for Shell in the Reinforced Conference.
By then, he was already familiar with the PBA style of play and even helped Shell to five straight wins to begin the conference, including a 112-104 victory over powerhouse San Miguel Beer in an out-of-town game in Iloilo City.
But while eating at a Wendy's outlet right across the Manila Garden Hotel (now Dusti Thani Hotel in Makati), he witnessed a bomb explosion. It was an incident that deeply affected him and changed the trajectory of his PBA stint.
"When I came back in 1987, I didn't finish that conference because that's the year I witnessed the bombing over at Manila Garden Hotel," Shouse told An Eternity of Basketball over the weekend. "It shook me up so bad, I wasn't used to that. I wasn't ready with what happened that day.
"It took me five years to get over the bomb. I would live it, wake up in cold sweats. It shook me up so bad that I felt like I wasn't safe or something," explained Shouse, who left the team just before the semifinals with his spot taken by Dwight Anderson. "I apologize to anybody if I hurt my fans, but it was something personal that I was going through."
Shouse recalled when he was already reunited with his girlfriend in the US, they went out to watch Good Morning Vietnam.
"When we were in the theater, a bomb went off in the movie, and I had to get up and leave, man. I was shook up. It's kinda like post-war something (post-traumatic stress disorder) because I was there, right across the street and it blew the food off my tray," he related. "I could have been right there, right in the spot, two minutes before."
Still, Shouse mentioned that despite the unfortunate incident, his impression on Filipinos didn't really change, calling the country his second home.
"It (bombing) didn't change my opinion, though, of the Filipino people," he said.
One last PBA stint
Two years after the bombing experience, Shouse came back to play in the PBA, this time under the legendary coach Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan with a young Purefoods team in the 1989 Reinforced Conference.
With a talented young core of Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, Jojo Lastimosa and Nelson Asaytono, basketball pundits back then tipped Purefoods as a title favorite. Throw in Shouse, who would regularly drop 50 points or so, and the Hotdogs looked formidable.
Shouse was in his element right in his first game with Purefoods, dropping 21 of his 38 points in the first quarter alone as the Hotdogs pummeled the Keith Smart-reinforced San Miguel squad, 126-94.
Shouse admitted he was really psyched up facing Smart, whose game-winning shot lifted the Indiana Hoosiers to the 1987 US NCAA men's basketball title over Syracuse.
"I think the Philippine people sent Keith Smart home when they tried to put him against me. It was either him or me. It's not gonna be me, it has to be him," Shouse said matter-of-factly. "He's a good player, but the game was so hyped up and one of us has to go home, and it wasn't going to be me.
"The problem was he had to face me the first game and that wasn't good, seriously."
Smart was eventually replaced by NBA veteran Ennis Whatley.
By his third PBA stint, Shouse was already accustomed to the style of play, enabling him to dominate several times as evidenced by the four occasions where he scored 50 points or more that conference.
With Purefoods needing just a win to advance to the Reinforced Conference finals to play SMB, the Philadelphia 76ers suddenly offered Shouse a playing contract he couldn't refuse.
"A lot of people say I signed a 10-day contract. But I never signed a 10-day contract, all the contracts I signed was one year," he insists. "It could be my last chance to get to the NBA, man. You know I'm supposed to be in the NBA, so I had to go entertain that."
The high-scoring American reinforcement admitted that abruptly leaving and failing to lead Purefoods the championship was "the saddest feeling".
"Because I love being in the Philippines. I never played in a playoff in the Philippines," he explained. "I'm pretty sure that team would have won the championship."
Left import-less, Purefoods fought hard but lost a heartbreaking 112-113 decision to Añejo Rum in their one-game playoff for a finals berth.
Shouse's act prompted PBA commissioner Rudy Salud to ban the American from ever playing in the pro league again.
The Black Superman
Shouse remembered during his first stint in the PBA that many people asked him if he knew the "Black Superman".
"So I'm thinking, the Black Superman? There's a Black Superman in the Philippines?"
To many PBA fans past and present, no one could ever forget Billy Ray Bates, who went by the nickname "Black Superman". Bates, the former Portland Trailblazers guard, took the PBA by storm after leading the legendary Crispa quintet to a grand slam in 1983.
Come the 1986 Open Conference, Bates returned to form a deadly import tandem with high-scoring Michael Hackett to reinforce Ginebra.
Meanwhile, as a young pro still out to make a strong impression in his first overseas stint, Shouse felt the pressure immediately the moment he played for Shell.
"The Philippines is a place where I felt like if you didn't win, you gotta go home, if you lose, bye bye, you're on the next plane back to the US," he said. "That's what you have in the Philippines, and I felt a lot of pressure all the time."
Nonetheless, when he had an opportunity to meet Bates one time, he had something to say.
"I told Billy Ray, 'I got Kryptonite for you, Billy Ray.' And so the first time we played them, the weird thing about that, Billy never said two words to me ever," said Shouse as he was expecting Bates, a legendary trash talker among his fellow imports, to talk trash to him before the start of their match.
"I don't know if he was scared of me or he just knew I wasn't scared of him. I'm sure he respected me."
Fireworks were aplenty during the Ginebra-Shell collision in the opening round of the eliminations. Shouse and Bates took charge for their respective ball clubs.
Shouse dropped 42 points before fouling out with still under six minutes left in the last quarter. Bates carried the scoring brunt though for Ginebra, sizzling with 51 markers as his import partner Michael Hackett had an anemic 16. But Shell showed nerves of steel in hammering out a 109-105 win.
Shouse had the highest respect for Bates, who led Ginebra to the franchise's first-ever pro league title in the 1986 season.
"(He was) like a cartoon superhero out of a magazine. He's a weird dude, but there's just this aura around him and it's kind of gratifying I played against him," he said.
"I think he was, on paper, you have to say Bates is the greatest player ever to play in the Philippines. You have to be, he's one of the best to ever play and I would pick him no. 1, just with his aura," he stressed.