The generation of sportswriters who covered his early PBA playing days called him The Big J. The more recent one christened him The Living Legend. To everyone else, meaning the rest of the Philippine population, he is known simply as "Jawo".
Whatever nickname he goes by, he's a certified basketball god. And since he's turning 75, starting on March 2 up to his birthday on March 8 ESPN5.com will be publishing seven - it has to be seven - articles on Robert Jaworski, Sr.
In the second of our seven "Jaworski at 75" features, ESPN5.com's OG writers Charlie Cuna and Noel Zarate discuss where they think Sonny Jaworski ranks in the list of all-time PBA greats.
First off, how do you define greatness?
Charlie: This is really tough. Basketball greatness probably consists of exceptional and diverse talent, which translates into outstanding statistics, a hard-to-match level of effort, the willingness and desire to do whatever it takes to get wins, an ability to uplift one's teammates/team, and the charisma to touch the fans'/observers lives through a combination of all these.
Noel: Greatness is the legacy one leaves not only in athletic excellence but also in how he or she changed the landscape of the game and how one influenced another generation.
Who are the player or players whom you think are indisputably ahead of Jaworski in the list of all-time PBA greats?
Charlie: The key word is "indisputably." There aren't many. I'd say Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio. If I had to name a third, perhaps Bogs Adornado or Ricardo Brown, but the fact I hesitated probably says that's disputable.
Noel: Indisputably ahead are the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Ramon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio and Bogs Adornado. Others who have a case for are Ricardo Brown, Abet Guidaben, Jimmy Alapag and Johnny Abarrientos.
What's your reaction to the other's answer in that last question?
Charlie: As big a fan I am of Adornado, the argument will always be there that he was first and foremost a great scorer/shooter -- other aspects of his game, and surely his personality, did not approximate that of Jaworski's. June Mar Fajardo's present "greatness" is really a product of the prevailing situation of the league. He is literally the biggest personality, and his stats are impressive, but in the entire scheme of greatness, as I define it, Fajardo does not have the complete all-around impact of the Big J.
Noel: For me, Fajardo and Adornado are still ahead of Jaworski in the GOAT top five. They achieved so much more in terms of accolades. However, they don't have the Big J's charisma, which to me makes his presence on any GOAT list or conversation very subjective.
So who are your top 5 PBA players of all time?
Noel: For me the PBA GOAT ranking is:
1. Ramon Fernandez
2. June Mar Fajardo
3. Alvin Patrimonio
4. Bogs Adornado
5. Sonny Jaworski
But for the overall Philippine basketball ranking, Caloy Loyzaga will take someone's place.
Charlie: Noel's list is formidable. Can't really question any inclusion. Purely a matter of preference. So tough to name a "top" whatever because those discussions can go on forever and will always be debatable. Here's my list:
1. Ramon Fernandez
2. Alvin Patrimonio
3. Bogs Adornado
4. Sonny Jaworski
5. Ricardo Brown
Noel: It's surprising that your list doesn't include the only 6-time PBA MVP. But at least we're in agreement that Jaworski is definitely in the top five in the PBA GOAT conversation. However, if one of the criteria includes how a player changed the game and became an inspiration to the sport, Jaworski should be at the top of the list. His exploits transcend the hardcourt and his legacy resounds even to this day. He is indeed a Living Legend.
What's the one thing that Jaworski did better than almost anyone else?
Noel: It's not in the stat sheets. His leadership, being iconic and being an inspiration is what sets him apart from anyone in my top five. The closest that comes to this is Jimmy Alapag, but even Jimmy would admit that he's not even half the shadow of what Jaworski represents in basketball.
Charlie: Passing. He was an exceptional passer who made his teammates look good or better. He was also excellent in dictating the pace of the game, a floor general par excellence. Not all lead guards can do that, more so at Jawo's level. Leadership and playing under control, i.e., remaining unrattled, he was unmatched as well. Is intimidation among the categories? He was at or near the top there, too.