Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The First Genuine Power Forward of the Philippines

I originally posted this in

Abraham Colombus King, Jr.

Year Joined the PBA: 1977
Monicker: Chairman of the Board
Career Scoring High: 60 points - as a Toyota player against Crispa
San Beda Red Lions (NCAA) 1975-1976
Crown Motors (MICAA) - 1976
Toyota (PBA) 1977-1983
Gold Eagle (PBA) 1984
Great Taste / Presto (PBA) 1985-1992
Purefoods / Coney Island (PBA) 1993-1994


Abe King, Jr. was the starting power forward of MAN Diesel / Frigidaire in the MICAA before his mother team, the Toyota Tamaraws called upon his services at the start of the 1977 PBA season. Prior to that, King was King Bedan in 1975 and 1976 and was responsible in powering the Red Lions to a runner-up and champion finish in those years. 

An Immediate Starter for the Toyota Tamaraws

King was an instant starter for the Tamaraws as resident power forward Alberto "Big Boy" Reynoso
retired at the end of the 1976 season. Reynoso's younger brother Cristino on the other hand was shipped to U/Tex in one of the early trades back in the PBA. Hence, King joined forces with Ramon Fernandez, Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz and 1976 Rookie Of The Year Virgilio "Gil" Cortez in the starting unit of the Tamaraws (original starting forward Rodolfo "Ompong" Segura suffered a knee injury during the 1976 season that allowed Cortez to blossom that season). King became a major force to reckon with, and almost won ROY honors, barely losing to eventual winner and co-power forward Jimmy Taguines of Yco-Tanduay in a tight race. However, King proved that he had the sterner stuff and longevity as he stayed in the PBA for nearly 2 decades while Taguines retired unceremoniously sometime in the early 80's. 

King's accomplishments though were somewhat diminished with the performance of his more accomplished teammates. The year after he joined the league, Robert Jaworski ruled the roost by averaging close to triple double the entire season enroute to the MVP award. In 1979, Ramon Fernandez narrowly lost out to Fortunato "Atoy" Co, Jr. in a tight MVP race that was decided by the media votes. Fernandez, though, proved that he was the best player of the season as he powered the Tamaraws to a runner up and championship finish in the succeeding two conferences. Co won the MVP title after the 1st Conference, one of the quirks of the PBA rules back then - and since Crispa won the title, the Fortune Cookie, despite ending up second to Fernandez in the stats race in the AFC, romped away with the honors. 

It was in 1982 though which was considered as King's best year with Toyota. The same year when Robert Jaworski was riding the bench because of an assortment of injuries (the Big J was already 36 by then), it was the quartet of Fernandez, Arnaiz, 1979 ROY Arnie Tuadles and King who starred in Toyota's two championships that season - the same year when Fernandez finally nailed his first of four MVP plums. What made King's accomplishments impressive was he did this on the other side of the game - his defense. While every player was getting his recognition from his offense, King did so on defense - a skill further enhanced by his coach Edgardo Ocampo - acknowledged as the 60's best two-way player. King was the nemesis not only of the best local players around, he also took it upon himself to defend against the best imports. Norman Black, Lew Massey, Lew Brown, Clarence Kea, among others, were surprised how a bulky local player can actually hold his own against them. Black intimated once in an interview that King was "the best local defender who ever guarded him." Alvin Patrimonio, during his peak, halcyon days of the early 90's, badly wanted an aging King to be part of Purefoods simply because he feared having King on the other side of the court defending him. Finally, a PBA player was recognized for his ability to defend players - and King became the yardstick of what defenders should be in the coming years. I would be more than willing to suggest to the PBA to have the Defensive Player of the Year trophy be named after King - as he was the first true defender of the league (my apologies to my own Crispa favorite Philip Cezar).

The PBA's First Franchise Player

When Toyota disbanded prior to the start of the 1984 season, there was much hullaballoo regarding the transfer of the players to Beer Hausen, the team that bought the Silverio franchise. Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz eventually went to Ginebra San Miguel while Abe King became the first "franchise player" in the history of the league when he signed up with Beer Hausen's corporate rival Gold Eagle Beer. King, though, latched upon that deal with Gold Eagle Beer prior to the announcement of Toyota's disbandment making him ineligible in that "lock, stock and barrel" purchase of Basic Holdings of Toyota's franchise. 

However, since King wasn't exactly a noted scorer, he needed players who can take over the offensive chores as he took it upon himself to lead the Gold Eagle team on the defensive end. Alas, since he had average players for teammates in a young Joey Loyzaga, a raw Rudy Distrito, an oft-injured Marte Saldaña, a defensive stalwart in Dante Gonzalgo, and two veterans who never made it big despite their promise at the start - Renato Lobo and Anthony Dasalla, Gold Eagle struggled big time. And since San Miguel (the mother company of Gold Eagle) was focusing its resources more on the PABL and the NCC team, Gold Eagle couldn't get the players they wanted to be competitive against the likes of Great Taste Coffee, Beer Hausen and Tanduay Rhum. 

A champion again

Eventually, King moved to Great Taste the succeeding year with no less than team manager Ignacio Gotao spearheading this transfer. King paradoxically found himself in unfamiliar company with past Crispa rivals Atoy Co, Bernie Fabiosa and Philip Cezar plus super rookie Allan Caidic but found the responsibilities at Great Taste lighter than when he was with Gold Eagle. He, along with Cezar, became the team's leaders as they were recognized by their peers and the younger players for their veteran smarts and skills. Ranged against the likes of Alaska's Bruise Brothers Ricky Relosa and Yoyoy Villamin, the Cezar-King combo more than held their own against the rising and younger pair of Relosa and Villamin. He stayed with the Gokongwei franchise until it disbanded at the end of the 1992 season, helping the team win two more titles in 1987 and 1992.

But what many people don't realize is that King only had one contrapelo among the players during his time. Ironically, it turned out to be his own Toyota teammate Ramon Fernandez who knew King's moves extremely well. Ditto the other way as King was also equally successful in guarding against Fernandez although the latter had more success in their matchups. Which wasn't really surprising as King wasn't the only player that had Don Ramon as contrapelo or scourge. The top centers / power forwards back then also suffered offensively when ranged against El Presidente - Gary Vargas, Rey Lazaro, Abet Guidaben, Terry Saldaña, Manny Victorino and Dondon Ampalayo feared Fernandez like the plague. King though wasn't far behind in the intimidation factor as he was also the scourge of many slotmen.

Parañaque Councilor

In 1994, while serving as a public servant / councilor for the then municipality of Parañaque (having been elected in 1988 and re-elected in 1992), his name was unfairly dragged in a drug mess within his municipality. It was one of the darkest episodes of King's life, especially since he had to go through personal struggles like receiving death threats for him and his family as he went all out to curb drug pushing in Parañaque. He was obviously innocent, but because he was holding a city position, he became a victim of the vicious local politics there. As such, he didn't get to play in the first conference that year.

Jaworski's interest

Jaworski was already calling him to consider playing for Tondeña Rum and perhaps, serve as mentor to young rookie, Noli Locsin. Purefoods, his mother team, though learned about the Big J's plans. Alvin Patrimonio, then the best player of the league, learned of Tondeña's desire to get King's services and pleaded with management to re-acquire his services. Team owner Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala and President Rene Buhain approved the Captain's request after meeting with King. Patrimonio understood how difficult would have been to go up against the Big J and his team when they would have Chito Loyzaga and King take turns in guarding him.

King didn't disappoint, and proved that he was still more than capable of delivering the goods. He helped the team win the Commissioner's Cup, beating the Alaska Aces in 5 games of their best of seven series.

He eventually retired after the 1994 season while continuing his duties as a public servant. He left for the US in 1998 and is now based in Seattle with his wife, the former Ligaya Pascual, while doting on his eight grandchildren.


Abe King revolutionized the power forward position in the PBA - making sure that there was indeed "power" in what he was doing. Everything the power forward is doing today - King was able to essay these back in the 70's to the 90's. He did the dirty job, collared rebounds on both ends of the court, defended against the imports of the other teams, offered his body while providing bone-crunching picks to his prolific teammates, manned the interior like it was Fort Knox, and stood out as the guy who'll protect his teammates from dirty plays. He introduced the "kalawit" rebound and was the first local to perform a reverse dunk. Norman Black has always acknowledged King as perhaps the best local to ever defend him one-on-one, a testament of King's ability as a stopper.

While King may have left the PBA scene quietly, many fans will continue to remember his legendary career with different teams. To date, he has yet to be recognized by the PBA as a member of the Greatest Players list, an accomplishment he should have achieved when the first 25 was established back in 2000. It's a great disservice for fans, and particularly, for King, not to be part of this hallowed list as there are only a few players in PBA history who have changed the game as much as what King has done.

Come 2025, we should be seeing King's name finally in the Top 50 greatest players' list of all-time. 

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