The Little Merman

(Cleevan, center; photos in this post taken from Cleevan’s Facebook page)

Cleevan Kayne Alegres circumnavigated Olango Island last week. He did not walk, paddle-board or sail around Olango — he swam all of it: 25,420 meters of swimming.

“My farthest distance before the Olango swim was 14 kms.,” he told me in our 28-minute-long talk last Thursday.

Cleevan’s ultimate goal is to encircle the entire Mactan island — a 40 to 45-km. swim. — later this month to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan.

With the 25-K swim in Olango, he told me, “Kalit-kalit ra to because I needed to swim a longer distance.”

Starting at 3:30 p.m. last April 4, Cleevan completed the trek by swimming for 9 hours and 59 minutes. He had to stop for two hours at the latter part of the expedition because he was separated from his accompanying pump boat.

Starting at Sta. Rosa port, he ended at the same spot at 3:30 a.m. He swam a big portion of the 25K in total darkness.

“I swam at night because of the tides,” he said. “I studied the tide chart and currents and they’re favorable at night.”

While most, if not all of us, are afraid of swimming the open seas at night, Cleevan felt relaxed when submerged in darkness.

“I’m used to spear-fishing in the evenings and night-diving,” said Cleevan, whose house sits right beside the waters of Mactan (behind J Park Resort). “I’m not scared of the dark while swimming.”

He did not wear a full-body wetsuit but opted for the barest of barest: swimming trunks. 

“Swimming for 10 hours, there were plenty of jellyfish, but I just ignored them,” said Cleevan, who  believes his achievement was 40 percent physical and 60 percent mental.

Cleevan was accompanied by a team. At portions of the route, he was joined by swimmers Jason Earl Bilangdal, Ryan Galo and Reinwald Ebora. There were three stand-up paddler teams that included his girlfriend Gillan Mae Sayson, his sister Eaa, and friends Saysay Silawan, Janjan Cañete and Tado Amit. A pumpboat glided nearby.

Cleevan did not eat during the 25-K challenge. He did not take caffeinated drinks because of a heart condition that started when he was a baby; for two months after he was born, he was in the incubator. Today, his heart palpitates if he takes coffee. 

The only nutrition that fueled him was the supplement brand Vitargo, recommended by Atty. Ingemar Macarine, the “Pinoy Aquaman.” During the swim, Cleevan took sips of the carbo-electrolytes supplement every 20 to 25 minutes. 

Swimming is a lonely sport. I asked Cleevan how he survived the mental anguish of floating at sea for 10 hours.

“I thought of my Veterinary studies,” said the fifth year junior clinician at SWU-Phinma. “While swimming, I tried to remember the lessons and kept on repeating them. I also sang, in my mind, my favorite songs. (These included the songs Inspector Mills and Superman, Five for Fighting.) 

“I counted 1 to 1,000. I thought about my future plans. I prayed to the Lord to help my tiredness. At the 20K mark, I experienced hallucination and thought that a dolphin was swimming beside me…”

Part 2 (published last April 18, 2021)

Cleevan Kayne Alegres stands 5-foot-3 and weighs 121 lbs. When asked in an interview after he completed the 25-km. Olango Island swim what he wanted to be called, he paused, thought of a nickname and said… The Little Merman!

Bright. The Little Mermaid, as know from the Disney movie, is derived from an 1837 book by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was a fairy tale.

On April 25, it will be another fairy tale — this time, a real life tale of Cebu’s very own “Little Merman” attempting to encircle Mactan Island using only his God-given legs and arms. The around-Mactan swim is expected to cover the length of between 40 to 45 kms.

Swimming for 40+ kms. — this sounds ridiculous. If you consider that a marathon road race spans 42 kms. — I’ve done a bunch of those runs and they’re tough — how much more in a horizontal position.

OLANGO SWIM. Two weeks ago (on April 4) when Cleevan swam the 10-hour-long adventure around Olango Island, he experienced moments of hallucination. 

“A dolphin was swimming beside me,” Cleevan said. “It was past 1 A.M. and I had been swimming for over 20 kms. It was only later that I realized that they were only coconuts floating nearby.”

Cleevan’s 25K “practice swim” provided him with several lessons before his 42K “main event” on April 25.

Lesson No. 1: music helps.

“A boombox is important,” he said. “I’ll ask my companions on the paddle board and pump boat to play music during the swim. Swimming in the middle of the night and for many hours.. I need music.”

Bright head lamps so his path won’t be too dark, said Cleeven, will also help.

With the swim pacers, Cleevan plans to ask four swimmers to accompany him. But this time, instead of asking them to join him at the start, they’ll form a relay team with each pacer swimming eight kms. The ones who’ve enlisted as pacers include Reinwalk Ebora, Albert Godinez, Ryan Galo and Jaron Earl Bilangdal. 

ADVOCACY. When I spoke to Cleevan for nearly half an hour 10 days ago, he was very passionate about the reason for this exploit.

“My advocacy is to raise awareness and get rid of the garbage at sea,” said Cleevan. “I live right beside the waters; our house is very near the J Park Resort. Where I live in Maribago, I am able to collect as much as two sacks of garbage everyday.”

Cleevan will embark on his 42K marathon swim at 5 p.m. on April 25 — near the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan. It’s a symbolic date. But the bigger symbol that the 25-year-old is attempting to achieve is this: We need to clean our seas and not throw plastics, junk or rubbish.

Cleevan wants to make sure that his swim will include passing along the Mactan Channel. While he previously only wore swim trunks, this time, for that stretch, he will have to wear a full suit. The reason is shocking and depressing.

“Hugaw, baho, lubog, daghan mag lutaw-lutaw bisag unsa, ang lapok itom pas black,” Cleevan said, of the Mactan Channel.

How sad.

Let’s hope that the swim of Cleevan Alegres will not only be historic but will help raise awareness to clean our seas and save the oceans.

While the world is down, it’s Game on

I’m not a gamer. Unlike my youngest brother Michael, whose favorite is Call of Duty: Warzone, my last gaming console was Atari. Ha-ha. Yes, Pong, Pac-man and Space Invaders!

Yesterday, I did a quick Google search on the sports that have thrived since the world changed 12 months ago. Not surprising, the No. 1 answer is Esports.

The “e” stands for “electronic” and it’s a sport involving multiple gamers playing video games. Before Covid-19 struck, a large stadium would be jampacked with overflowing fans watching a Jumbotron. This time, the games are happening remotely — at home. 

Gaming is a huge, huge, huge business. Of the planet’s 7.9 billion people, about 57 percent have access to the internet. And of that 4.5 billion Web users, a huge 2.81 billion play computer games. 

The global video game industry is $159 billion. How huge is that? It’s four times the box office (movie) revenues and three times the music industry market.

COVID-19 has increased the number of gamers worldwide. Told to strictly follow stay-at-home protocols, the Internet Protocol (IP) has ruled. The length of time people spend online playing games has substantially increased during this pandemic.

For Esports, this is good. It is officially a sport. During the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, a total of six medals were at stake. At the end of the six-day tournament held at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan, our Filipino e-gamers collected the most hardware: We won 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals. 

The games played included Arena of Valor, Starcraft II, Dota 2, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Hearthstone and Tekken 7. The popular “NBA2k” game was planned to be one of the titles but a license was not secured before the game’s start.

Later this year in Vietnam, when our ASEAN neighbor hosts the SEA Games, they will offer 10 medals for Esports, including CrossFire and FIFA Online 4.

The Olympics is not ready yet. Esport aficionados, knowing how popular video games are in Japan, pushed to have Esports included in the Tokyo Olympics. But the IOC declined. Had the Games pushed through last year, an accompanying event (“The Intel World Open”) was to have been staged in Tokyo coinciding with the Olympics.

Here in Cebu, I remember an event I attended in September 2014. My good friend Brian Lim, an entrepreneur-triathlete, was then the chairman of the Phil. E-Sports Organization (PESO).

Brian helped organize the event, “eSports Festival: Rigs. Cosplay. Games.” that attracted over 500 participants at the Cebu Trade Hall of the SM City Cebu. 

Sven Macoy Schmid, an avid gamer, wrote this in his blog, “I was stunned by how many spectators the event drew… there was the cosplay event, the rig competition and the beautiful creatures called ‘booth babes.’”

Brain Lim explained to me the attraction of this game.

“ESports is the modern-day equivalent of Chess,” he said. “It’s a mind sport but without any physical boundaries as it can be played across the internet and across different genres or game types.”

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Categorized as Covid-19

Brooklyn vs. L.A.

The NBA Playoffs won’t commence until May 22 and the NBA Finals won’t be contested by the grappling of two squads until July 8 but, this early, we might as well erect a giant Times Square billboard and posterize the inevitable.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers. 

The NBA is composed of 30 teams and we can debate and wrangle over the merits and handicaps of each team. But given what transpired in the last 72 hours, the obvious has become unmistakable.

Kevin Durant. James Harden. Kyrie Irving. Blake Griffin. And, early this week, the disembarkation of LaMarcus Aldridge, a 7-time NBA All-Star. This “Brooklyn Five” combine for a mouth-watering 40 total NBA All-Star appearances. 

“Life is unfair; and it’s not fair that life is unfair,” someone once commented.

Steve Nash, the Nets’ coach, besieged with questions on the unfairness of his collection of superstars, replied: “It’s not like we did anything illegal so I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, not try to add to our roster and just sit pat? The idea of this league is try to put together the best team you can put together. And that doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.”  

Steve, it guarantees you a free pass to the NBA Finals where a Hollywood cast awaits..

LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The duo merge to establish the most formidable pairing in Lakers history since Kobe and Shaq. The Lakers are the defending champs and, with a line-up this 2021 that includes Schroder, Montrezl, Kuzma, Caruso, KCP, Gasol, Matthews and THT, they were pre-installed as the title favorites.

Until LBJ and AD got injured. Until the “Brooklyn Five” was formed.

So, what counter move did Rob Pelinka, the VP of the Lakers, perform? He convinced a 6-foot-10, 279-lb. giant with a 7-foot-5 wingspan named Andre Drummond to transfer — like LeBron did — from Cleveland to L.A. 

Drummond fills a gaping hole at, literally, the center of the Lakers’ formation. He is a rebounding specialist, pulling down rebounds like a farmer would pick apples from a tree. Drummond has led the league in rebounding four times and is the league’s all-time leader in seasons with at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks. The big, who was born in New York but is moving West to help Los Angeles, has achieved that four times.

“So much of the playoffs are about the paint, you know, and he’s a physical force down there,” said Orlando coach Steve Clifford, of Drummond. “He’s a great rim protector and one of the great offensive rebounders in our game. He could win one or two playoff games for you just for this physicality and size alone.”

So, in this impending brawl between Brooklyn and L.A., who’s the winner? 

First, the losers: The 28 other teams who will be left salivating at the sight of the Nets-Lakers dispute. This will surely be one of the most anticipated NBA Finals in history. This is a war between the Justice League vs. the Avengers.

The winners? You and me and all of us, basketball fanatics.

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Categorized as NBA

Netflix + Sports

Trivia: Did you know that the average Netflix subscriber — yes, that includes you, dear reader — spends as much as 3.2 hours everyday watching its movies and shows?

What started in 1997 as a DVD rental service has ballooned into the world’s largest streaming movie outfit. Netflix boasts of over 205 million subscribers; multiply that by four per household and you’ve got a billion people watching Netflix every 8:49 P.M.

During this pandemic — as we commemorate the lockdown’s one year anniversary in Cebu — Netflix has soared. Their subscriber base (worldwide) increased by 21.9%. Their 2020 gross revenue is huge: $25 billion. But look at how much they spent last year on new content: $17.3 billion. In pesos, that’s P848 billion! Talk about a boom in the film industry. 

In sports, Netflix has a deluge of sports documentaries.

“The Last Dance” is my favorite. Featuring Michael Jordan, it’s an 8-part docuseries that includes never-before-shown footages of MJ’s final season with the Chicago Bulls. The interviews on Scottie Pippen and revelations about Dennis Rodman are riveting.

“Icarus” is a must-see. The 121-minute-long film made in 2017 won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Yes, it’s that good. I immensely enjoyed this Bryan Fogel-directed story because it talks about cycling — and the prevalence of doping in this punishing sport.  

“The Dawn Wall” is another visually stunning thriller that I watched last month. It tells the story of daredevils Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson and their 2015 attempt to free-climb Yosemite’s most dangerous rock face. How captivating is this El Capitan documentary? In Rotten Tomatoes, which solicits reviews, it scored 100%.

“The Playbook” is good. The show asks coaches to share with us their lessons in life and sports. My favorites include the interviews with Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou; the NBA’s Doc Rivers; and football’s Jose Mourinho.

“Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” just last week, released Season 3. The 20 episodes in the first two seasons were captivating. Warning: If you watch this inside look at the planet’s speediest machines, you will get hooked. Perfect to watch this series because the F1 season is unfolding today in Bahrain.

Football fanatic or not, you’ve got to watch “Pele.” The 108-minute-long narrative chronicles the life of Brazil’s favorite son and the soccer world’s numero uno. The solo interview of the now-80-year-old Pele is fascinating; so was the recounting of his life: playing for Santos at 15 and the national team at 16, and winning three World Cups — a feat never equalled. That’s because Pele has no equal.  

I have yet to watch “Losers” but I read good reviews about the 8-episode docuseries. While most flicks showcase the Jordans and Peles, here’s a twist: the film depicts the lives of athletes who’ve experienced defeats — and how they’ve transformed these failures into positive outcomes.

Others that I have yet watch but are on my list: Senna, Last Chance U, The Carter Effect, and The Speed Cubers.

FeDjoDal

A week ago, I wrote about how lucky we are to be witnesses to the continuing greatness of the Three Kings: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Since their 18-year dominance started in 2003, we saw them winning 58 of the 70 Grand Slam singles trophies. Their triumvirate ranks as the best not only in tennis folklore but of any sports trio in history.

But who’s better? The Spaniard, the Serb or the Swiss?

My easy answer: The real-life tennis movie is not finished yet. Their careers are not over and I foresee Roger lifting that Wimbledon crown once more and Rafa collecting 27 more French Open trophies, and the Aussies changing their “Australian Open” to “Novak Djokovic Open.”

Roger and Rafa have amassed 20 majors apiece and Novak owns 18. My prediction: At their career’s end, I see the Serbian stockpiling the most major trophies. Djokovic is at his peak today and he’s a year younger than the often-injured Nadal and six years Federer’s junior.

If Djokovic overtakes R & R, can he sit atop the throne of tennis’ Mt. Everest? Maybe. He holds win-loss records of 29-27 vs. Nadal and 27-23 vs. Federer. But we know that the unofficial “The Greatest” title is not purely about numbers. If we speak of being revered and admired, sadly, Novak ranks way, way below the universally-loved Roger and Rafa.

So, the GOAT debate lingers. But here’s an award that I’m ready to bestow to these recipients. Since tennis has three main surfaces, it’s obvious that each owns a different type of real estate.

Grass, best ever: Federer.

Hard-court, best: Djokovic.

Clay, greatest: Nadal.

The above conclusions are unquestionable. 

On top of this, allow me to construct the perfect tennis player. Instead of three gentlemen, allow me to combine forces so that they form one creature. An individual whom, if we had an interplanetary contest, I’d ask to represent Planet Earth. He would possess…

Nadal’s left-handed forehand, especially that inside-out strike and hooking topspin that curls to an opponent’s weak backhand. I’d also include Nadal’s indefatigable fighting spirit. His overhead smash is another that I’d embrace in his arsenal.

Federer? I’ll inject his first and second serves. That 120-mph slice serve or second serve twist with pinpoint accuracies. This is why RF has eight Wimbledons. And, when he glides towards the net, I’d also incorporate RF’s volleys and half-volleys. They are compact, deadly, exact. That slice backhand (“ha-it,” we Bisaya players call it) is a Federer signature.

For the backhand, nothing compares to that two-fisted cannon of Djokovic. He can smack it cross-court or score a down-the-line bomb. Return of serve? Agassi’s was good but Djokovic’s is at a different cosmos. Finally, on defensive skills, when one is pushed to the limit on either side, with outstretched arms and legs splitting, no one plays defense better than Novak.

FeDjoDal. In today’s virtual world, a three-in-one cyborg that’s molded from three tennis beings.

Roger, Rafa and Novak

Question: How many Grand Slam singles trophies have Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won from 2003 to 2021?

Answer: 58 of 70! Yes, no misprint there. Only three individuals out of the tens of millions of tennis players have collared 82.85 percent of all the major titles in the past 18 years. No trio in any sport at any time in our universe has this dominance transpired. 

Question # 2: Who is the greatest tennis player ever?

Answer: All of the above.

Yes, in deference to Don Budge, Rod Laver and Pete Sampras, the current Big 3 are history’s greatest ever to wield that Wilson, Babolat or Head stick.

Question # 3: Who among the triumvirate is the best; and thus, to be crowned the GOAT?

Answer: It’s complicated.

Is it the Swiss maestro whose 20 majors include eight Wimbledon titles? Federer has also amassed six ATP Tour Finals wins (Djokovic has five and, inexplicably, Nadal has none). The Swiss won an Olympic gold medal in doubles and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year crown a record five times. 

Trophies aside, he has picked up the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award a whopping 13 times. This award is voted upon by the ATP players in recognition for one’s professionalism, integrity and utmost spirit of fairness. Nadal has won this four times and Djokovic has, ouch, none. Is the 6-foot-1, Rolex endorser the best-ever?

Vamos! How about Spain’s Raging Bull? Five years Federer’s junior, he has the same number of Grand Slam singles trophies (20). What’s remarkable with Nadal is his achievement in Roland Garros. He is 13 of 13 in finals in Paris and his win-loss record there is an incomprehensible 100-2.

Rafa is the King of Clay. At one point, he won 81 straight victories on that dusty surface. Another feat that only he has (among the Big 3): the career Golden Slam — a singles gold medal (in Beijing, which my wife Jasmin and I were lucky to have witnessed) plus the four major trophies.

This 2021, the next Grand Slam event is — tadang — the French Open. It’s a sure bet that Nadal win will his 21st major title there. Anticipating his lead in the Big 3, is the Spaniard the greatest?

Not so fast, says Novak. With his win in Melbourne three weeks ago — his ninth Australian Open crown — Djokovic has 18 majors. Only two major titles shy of matching R & R, he has a record that will be difficult for any man to beat: 312 weeks at the No. 1 spot. This is the all-time record as he just overtook Federer last week.

He has finished as the year-ending No. 1 a record six times (sharing Sampras’ record) and has won the Masters 1000 events a record 36 times.

At 33 years of age, Djokovic is the youngest among the trio (Nadal is a year older and Federer turns 40 this August). This means that he has more chances to win more majors.

What’s impressive with Djokovic is his head-to-head record against Federer and Nadal. He has a 29-27 win-loss record against Nadal and a 27-23 score against Federer. Because he has defeated the other two more times, does this mean he’s better and to be crowned the best?

All are Stars in this game

In the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, a total of 17,808 spectators filled the United Center to witness Team LeBron defeat Team Giannis in a thrilling 157-155 encounter.

This weekend, the All-Star Game continues. What’s the difference? Plenty. First, the people on the rafters will not exceed 1,500. Considering that the State Farm Arena has a capacity of 16,600, that’s less than 10 percent attendance.

Last year, the All-Star Weekend was held early — Feb. 16, 2020 — before the lockdown was enacted. Thus, a full capacity crowd was invited.

We’re even lucky the All-Star Game is pushing through this 2021. Originally, it was to be held in Indianapolis. Then, the league officials said that it would be cancelled. It reversed course and said that it would continue in Atlanta, Georgia. From the usual whole-weekend spectacle, it has also been reduced to one day.

The Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge will be held before the game. Then, during halftime, instead of the sexy dancers entertaining the audience, it will be the Slam Dunk Contest. 

These are the changes. What won’t change are the words “all stars.” The planet’s best ballplayers will converge in a high-scoring, plenty-of-dunks, minimal-defense, lots-of-laughing contest that will be played (Phil. time) tomorrow at 9 A.M.

LeBron, Giannis and Steph Curry in the same team? Wow, this hasn’t happened before. Add the Slovenian 22-year-old Luka Doncic and the 26-year-old Serb Nikola Jokic and that’s a mighty Avengers-type squadron. Team LeBron is the favorite against any other team in the universe — well, except this team being assembled in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum lead the starting five of Team Durant. I’m excited with the first All-Star game of Zion Williamson. During the Draft Pick, as soon as Kevin Durant picked the 20-year-old Pelicans star to be part of his line-up, you could hear a sigh from LeBron. He, too, wanted to play alongside the 6-foot-7, 248-lb. monster-dunk specialist.

The NBA All-Star Game dates back to 1951 when the East defeated the West in Boston Garden. For 70 years, it has been one of the sporting world’s highlights. It also produces the most number of points of possibly any basketball game in the world. The record, back in 2017, was the 192-182 win by the West. That’s a whopping 374 points scored in 48 minutes.

Tomorrow, I’m also excited with the 3-point shootout. Steph Curry, the 2015 winner, is the perennial favorite. The interesting fact this 2021: Zach LaVine and Donovan Mitchell are joining. They are former Slam Dunk champs — and no one in history has gone on to win both the dunking and 3-point events. Will tomorrow be the first?

In the Slam Dunk contest, only three are joining: Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley and Obi Toppin. I’ll make an admission: as I typed their names, it was the first time I’ve heard of these three. They’re young (21, 21 and 23) and hungry for that prestigious high-flying title.

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Categorized as NBA

Free Throws

Steph Curry is the all-time best at that uncontested basketball shot taken 15 feet away. This season, he’s made 176 of 187 foul shots and is shooting an incredible 94.1% clip. Last January, he was en route to breaking Michael Williams’ record of consecutive free throws (97) but, in the game against Portland when Curry scored 62 points, he ONLY made 18 of 19 free throws. His one missed free throw ended his streak of consecutive foul shots at 80. Not bad, Steph! 

There is no debate that GSW #30 is the greatest shooter of all time. In the 3-point-shot department, he ranks No. 2 in the all-time list of 3-pointers made. He has 2,657 three-pointers and lacks only 317 to break Ray Allen’s record of 2,973. But here’s the amazing statistic: It took Allen 1,300 games to reach that record. Curry has played only 732 games.

Back to the Free Throw Line..  While Curry is the best, did you know that the worst free throw shooter ever is Wilt Chamberlain? Yes, no misprint there. In his 1958 to 1973 NBA career, the 7-foot-1 former Harlem Globetrotters center went to the free throw line 11,862 times. He converted only 5,805 for an embarrassing 51.1% average. 

“Wilt the Stilt” holds multiple NBA records such as most points scored in a game (100), most rebounds in a game (55), and the highest per game average (50.36 PPG in 1961-62) but his record of free throw misses also ranks at the top.

Shaquille O’Neal joins Wilt as one of history’s worst foul shooters. His career average is 52.7%. He was so bad at shooting from the free throw line that teams devised the “Hack a Shaq.” It’s a defensive ploy with a simple tactic: Foul Shaq! This was a successful gambit that was first used by Mavs coach Don Nelson and employed by many teams.

Dennis Rodman was one target. “The Worm” stood only 6-foot-7 but was the league’s best rebounder, leading the NBA in this area in seven seasons. (I got the chance to see Rodman when he played at the Mandaue Sports Complex and he was both fun and funny.) As a free throw shooter? Rodman wasn’t as bad as Wilt or Shaq but he shot only 58.4% in his 14-year career. 

This 2021-22 season, the worst-performing is Clint Capella with a 54.6% average. But here’s a question that’s mind-boggling: Why is Russell Westbrook (the 2017 NBA MVP awardee) the fifth-worst free throw shooter this season (60% average)? 

Same with the two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He sits as the 7th worst free-throw shooter this season.

LeBron James’ numbers also puzzle me. He carries a dismal 69.8% average this 2021. That’s a dip from his 73.4% career average.

Which brings me to my Trivia Question: Who is the best free throw shooter so far this season, beating Steph Curry’s 94.1% and Chris Paul’s 96.2%?

The answer: His grandmother, Marcelina Tullao, hails from Bacolor, Pampanga. He played for Gilas Pilipinas and, with his stellar 2021 play, is the early favorite for the “Sixth Man of the Year” trophy. With a free throw percentage of 96.4%, his initials spell JC.

Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Dodong Gullas

Dodong Gullas (in red) with John P., Johnvic Gullas and Fritz Tabura

Our friendship started 26 years ago.

Jose Rivera Gullas, one late afternoon after playing doubles with his brother Eddie at the Cebu Country Club, called to have a chat.

“What can we do to help tennis?” he asked.  

Our afternoon chatter extended to multiple meetings at his UV office.

“Sir Dodong,” as we called him, wanted to uplift the youth. He longed to establish a tournament that would reach out to 8-year-olds and 18-year-olds; to beginners and multiple-champions. He wanted a small grassroots event that would transform into a major championship.

The 1st Gullas Tennis Cup was born in 1995.

Year after year, the tournament grew. First, the locals joined. Next, those from Bohol and Dumaguete hopped to our island. The Gullas Cup turned into a must-join sortie in the Visayas and Mindanao. It garnered the Philta Group 2 ranking and Manila netters would skip a week at the metropolis to join Cebu’s top game.

Fritz Tabura, our tournament director, and I would visit Mr. Gullas’ office at the UV Main Campus every year to discuss the event.

Each summer, when the Gullas Tennis Cup would normally be held, Mr. Gullas wanted to give more to the players. We were one of the first to give free T-shirts. The registration fee, usually P400, we offered at P150. 

We concocted a Fellowship Night where we had free food (lechon), dance and song numbers (by the players), and raffle prizes. Since players from all over the country trooped to the many venues that we had through the years — CCC, Casino Español, Citigreen, Alta Vista, Pardo TC, Naga, Lahug (Suson), Consolacion, Villa Aurora, Sancase — the party was a fun experience for the tennisters. 

It’s not all about tennis, he’d often say.

Dodong Gullas was known for his love of basketball as a player, coach and manager. Back in 1957, he led the UV Green Lancers to the national title, defeating the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

He loved tennis. Dodong Gullas played the sport as a form of exercise for many years. And in the Jose R. Gullas Tennis Cup, he would visit to watch the games or to attend the trophy ceremony. Many of those that he and his son Johnvic awarded became national champions: Niño Alcantara, Sally Mae Siso, Jacob Lagman, Niño Siso, Michael Quiñones, Oswaldo and James Dumoran, and Ilak Tabura.

Sir Dodong valued the word “values.” In the annual press conference that we’d conduct before the tournament’s start, he would stress the importance of sports among the youth. He despised the prevalence of drugs in society. He often said that sports was the cure

Our last Gullas Tennis Cup was the 23rd edition in June 2018. I remember visiting his brand-new office at the UV campus. He inquired about my dad Bunny and daughter Jana. We talked about his two major events that were unfolding the following year (2019): the 100th anniversary celebrations of UV and The Freeman.

Dodong Gullas left us for good last Thursday. It was game, set and match for our tennis mentor. 

I’ll never forget his humility and kindness.

JRG. He was Just, Respectful, and a Gentleman.

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Categorized as Cebu, Tennis

40 is the new 20

A human being’s muscular strength peaks between the ages of 25 to 30. After that, no thanks to the word “aging,” our physical vigor and sinew naturally decline.

Then how, at the age of 43, do you explain a specimen named Tom Brady? For 21 years, he has accumulated an overabundance of trophies — culminating last week with his 7th Super Bowl ring.

“Tom Brady is an inspiration to me,” said Sen. Manny Pacquiao. “We are both in our forties, competing in sports that are dangerous and physically and mentally demanding.”

Pacquiao credits Brady’s lifelong dedication and conditioning.

“Tom Brady does that every day,” said Pacquiao. “He has no offseason. That takes superhuman dedication and discipline. Tom Brady is always in the back of my mind during training camp and between fights. Because Tom Brady is the gold standard.”

Manny Pacquiao is our Tom Brady. He’s 42 years old. And considering the physicality and brutality of boxing, that’s a very, very old age to be wearing boxing gloves. Back in 2019, the GenSan native became the oldest boxer to win a welterweight world crown. And Pacman’s not finished yet. He plans to engage in two more mega-fights. This 2021 against either Ryan Garcia, a fighter 20 years his junior, or the undefeated Terence Crawford. And in 2022, Pacquaio will climb the stage once more and aim to become our next Philippine president.

On tennis, two of the greatest ever to wield Wilson rackets will turn 40 this 2021. Roger Federer turns 40 this Aug. 8 and Serena Williams turns 40 on Sept. 26. 

That’s “40-love” in tennis-speak.

Both are still active and will, possibly at Wimbledon this year, win another major.

Tiger Woods is 45. His back is 85 years old but that did not deprive the injury-plagued American from winning, back in 2019, The Masters. 

Golf is nowhere near as physical as American football or boxing — and so Tiger is still competing. He’s three majors shy of equaling Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

LeBron James is NBA’s representative in this “Age doesn’t matter” contest. He’s 36 and has signed a contract near Hollywood that will extend until 2023. By then, his son Bronny will be eligible to play. When the father-and-son play alley-oops together, this means that King James will reign past the age of 40.

LBJ is a lover of fine wine. 

LeBron, like wine, gets better with time.

Donnie Nietes turns 39 this May 12. The world titlist at the 105, 108, 112 and 115-lb. divisions is still fighting. The longest-reigning Filipino boxing world champion has an event scheduled in Dubai this April. 

What’s the secret of these all-time greats?

Tom Brady Sr., the father-in-law of Gisele Bundchen, explains it best: 

“If what you’re doing is something that you really love, then why stop? …  That’s kind of what his (Tom’s) secret is. It’s not the Super Bowl, it’s the process. He loves every day working out, he loves every day eating right, he loves every day doing the TB12 method. He’s never put in minimums. He puts in maximums. He lives football.”