Robert Jaworski

Robert Jaworski

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Robert Vincent Salazar Jaworski Sr. is a Filipino former professional basketball player, head coach and politician who served as a Senator of the Philippines from 1998 to 2004. He played 23 seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Robert Jaworski was part of the Toyota franchise for 10 years (1973–1983). He was the acknowledged leader of the team and a major player in Toyota’s nine PBA championships. He was named Most Valuable Player in 1978. Jaworski’s MVP performance may arguably be considered as his best single season, averaging 20 points, 12 assists and close to nine rebounds per game. This was done despite the presence of hulking imports with no height limit – imports he played alongside and against with.

The closest that would compete for domination would be Ramon Fernandez’s scintillating 1984 season for Beer Hausen where “El Presidente” averaged 27 points, 15 boards and 9.9 assists per game. The difference though was that Jaworski (along with Fernandez and Arnaiz) led the Toyota team to two championships that season (the Open and the AFC) while Fernandez failed to bag a title for Beer Hausen in 1984. He was also the first point guard to achieve 1000 offensive and 2000 defensive rebounds. He is also the PBA’s All Time Leader in Assists. In 1967, Jaworski and veteran internationalist Narciso Bernardo were named as members of the Mythical Five.

When Toyota disbanded at the end of the 1983 season, the team was sold to Basic Holdings, Inc., the company that owns Asia Brewery. Jaworski balked at the idea of joining Beer Hausen, the brand name of Basic Holdings after describing what he felt was a sale done without giving due respect to the personalities involved. Jaworski described the sale as a ‘farce,’ and that players like him should not be sold “por kilo.” At that time, Beer Hausen was intent on making Fernandez as the franchise player of the team with Jaworski relegated in the background. Eventually, then PBA president Carlos “Honeyboy” Palanca III made a decision that was the most controversial and history-making move in the PBA. Palanca, owner of La Tondeña, Inc. which owns Gilbey’s Gin (later Ginebra San Miguel) in the PBA, decided to take in Jaworski and best buddy Arnaiz to the team. This marked the cornerstone in making Ginebra arguably the most popular team in Philippine basketball history with Jaworski at the forefront.

Robert Jaworski and Arnaiz turned the moribund franchise into a competitive one almost overnight when in the first conference of the 1984 season, the All Filipino, they led the team to a runnerup finish against powerhouse Crispa. Gilbey’s Gin was then led by Arturo “Turo” Valenzona, a former nemesis of Jaworski from their MICAA days. A power struggle was already ensuing thereby leading to the breakup of the Valenzona-Jaworski partnership at the start of the 1985 season. Jaworski took over as playing coach of Ginebra San Miguel while Valenzona went on limbo before moving to the Tanduay Rhum Makers in the 1986 season.

Jaworski’s first championship as a playing coach came in the 1986 Open Conference when he, alongside import players Michael Hackett and Billy Ray Bates, dominated the entire conference to win the championship finals at the expense of the Manila Beer team, then led by former Crispa players Abet Guidaben (who was traded from Tanduay vice Fernandez) and Atoy Co, alongside imports Michael Young and Harold Keeling.

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