I originally posted this in mypba.com.
DANILO ZOLETA FLORENCIO - probably the most dreaded offensive weapon in PBA history
Danny Florencio is a pioneer of the Philippine Basketball Association having played in the PBA from 1975 to 1983. He played for different teams like the U/Tex Weavers, the 7/Up Uncolas, the Toyota Tamaraws, and the Galerie Dominique Artistas. Florencio didn't have any monicker during his time, but he would probably establish himself as the very first "Skywalker" in the PBA, much ahead of Avelino "Samboy" Lim. Other broadcasters also called him "Daredevil Danny" for his innate ability to slash inside the paint with ease and embarrassing his opponents inside.
Florencio played for the UST Glowing Goldies in the UAAP. He had colorful battles with Robert Jaworski and Johnny Revilla, the superstars of their arch rivals University of the East. In 1967, UST and UE ended up co-champions in the UAAP, a testament to the fierce rivalry between the Recto-based university and the Dominican school.
Florencio was a member of several national teams - the 1966 Asian Games, the 1968 Olympic Games, the 1970 Asian Games, the 1971 ABC, the 1972 Olympic Games and the 1974 Asian Games. He was a major cog for each national team he played for, being one of the team's top offensive weapons. Not only was he capable of shooting from the outside, he was also one of the toughest hombres inside the court. At 5'10 and playing off guard, Florencio's derring-do cannot be missed as his point production was spiked by several lane penetrations inside against the outstretched arms of taller opponents. He had an incredible first step which often led to him leaving behind his defensive opponent. What was more amazing was how Florencio would pirouette inside the paint, twist his body, hang in the air for a few seconds to avoid the shotblocking arms of the opponent's last line of defense and scoop the basket in. And this he did at 5'10 in height!
Florencio first played for the multi-titled Crispa Floro Redmanizers in the MICAA in the early 70's. He was one of Crispa's most prized possessions, and more often than not led the team in scoring. Some of his well known teammates included Bogs Adornado, Jun Papa, Rudy Kutch, Rudy Soriano, and Johnny Revilla. But in 1973, a major blackeye in the career of Florencio occured when he was charged with game-fixing in the aftermath of the 1973 MICAA championship where Crispa lost to Mariwasa in the finals. Meted with a lifetime suspension, Florencio was charged along with Crispa teammates Kutch, Soriano, Papa, Ernie De Leon, Epoy Alcantara, Billy Abarrientos and future PBA referee Ernie De Leon. Their suspensions were later lifted by the Basketball Association of the Philippines under Gonzalo "Lito" Puyat the year after, allowing Florencio to play in the 1974 World Basketball Championships.
Florencio's career flourished while he was in the MICAA. But despite the advancing age, Florencio still became a PBA superstar despite not playing for the top-tiered teams Crispa and Toyota at the start. He first played for the Weavers where he became the leading scorer alongside Alfonso "Boy" Mora, Larry "The Little Fox" Mumar and Rudy Kutch. As a matter of fact, in the first ever PBA 3 on 3 contest, the U/Tex troika of Florencio, Kutch and Mumar won the title. Florencio, like Kutch and Mumar, were also regular members of the PBA All-Star competitions.
In the first few months of the 1977 season, the first ever trade in PBA history occured when Florencio and teammate Jimmy Otazu were dealt to the 7/Up Uncolas for Carlos Rodriguez and erstwhile Toyota stalwart Tino Reynoso. The trade became favorable for Florencio as it became normal for him to score in the high 30's, including a few 50 point games and a record 64 points in the 1977 Open Conference in a losing cause against Toyota. This 64 point feat is remarkable to say the least since Florencio had to share the offensive load with two imports of unlimited height, the 6'7 Chris MacMurray and the 7'0 Steve Stroud. Florencio's scoring record stood for 3 years until William Adornado tied this record with his own 64 point feat as a U/Tex Wrangler in the 1980 season. At the end of the 1977 season, Florencio averaged a scintillating 32.3 points per game, to date, the highest scoring average of a local player for one season.
In 1978, when the Uncolas disbanded, the Filmanbank franchise of Toyota owner Ricardo Silverio, Sr. took over the team. Florencio was released and given to the Toyota Tamaraws practically on a silver platter. Florencio was warmly received by his Toyota superstar teammates as he, along with another superstar veteran Estoy Estrada who joined Florencio at Toyota at the same time, filled up the missing gaps of the team. Toyota won the AFC crown immediately at the expense of sister team Filmanbank (led by import Billy Robinson) with Florencio leading the scoring. U/Tex won the 2nd conference, the Open, the first time another team outside of Crispa and Toyota to win the title. In the 3rd Conference, Toyota salvaged the Invitationals with a convincing victory at the expense of the Tanduay Distillers. Midway in that season, Toyota and Crispa also had the opportunity to face the national teams of Yugoslavia and Canada in an exhibition game. Led by imports Carlos Terry and Bruce King and locals Florencio, Fernandez, Jaworski, Arnaiz, Estrada and King, the Tamaraws demolished the two national teams. At the end of the 1978 season, Florencio further stamped his class as a scorer by topping the locals once more in scoring, averaging 23 points per game, ahead of that season's MVP winner Robert Jaworski who tallied 20 ppg.
In 1979, Florencio got involved in another shroud of mystery as there are no records in the PBA showing that he actually played for the season. There were two significant events that happened that year for Toyota: the hiring of rookie sensation Arnulfo "Arnie" Tuadles who was immediately inserted in the starting lineup of the Tamaraws and the game-fixing allegation of Dante Silverio against three of his star players - Ramon Fernandez, Abe King and Estoy Estrada. Estrada's alleged involvement in game-fixing allowed Silverio to give more playing time to Tuadles, who flourished at the small forward position and became a member of the Mythical 5, a first in PBA history for a rookie to accomplish such a feat. On the other hand, Florencio, who was part of the 1978 starting lineup of Toyota at #3 alongside the Big J, Arnaiz, Fernandez and King, was nowhere to be found.
He later resurfaced in 1980 and played the most number of games among the locals that season with 60, an incredible comeback for the prolific scorer. In 1981, he became the 9th player to reach the 5,000 point club, doing this on the date of his birthday. He later moved to the Coseteng franchise then named Galerie Dominique in 1983 (the previous season, it was called Finance Funders, another Coseteng company), an art shop owned by Emerson Coseteng's daughter Nikki. After chucking his jersey #8 from 7/Up and U/Tex to #44 while with Toyota, he was able to use his #8 jersey in his final year with the Artistas. Florencio continued to lead the scoring for his team but had no ample local support and the imports that he normally had for teammates were not exactly the types who can bring a lowly team with a meager budget to the championship. The Artistas eventually disbanded at the end of the 1983 season with Florencio deciding to finally hang up his shoes. He later left for the United States where he is presently based there.
Florencio is now among the PBA's 25 greatest players. From the 25 players, he was the only cager who didn't crack the Mythical 5, his highest having been part of the Second Mythical team back in 1977 and 1978. But no one can deny the place and respect that Florencio has earned in his 8 year stint with the PBA. He was probably the greatest offensive weapon of his time, much more prolific than the likes of Adornado, Co, Arnaiz, and other players. He would have cracked the 5000-point plateau much earlier had he not been sidelined in 1979. Note that Atoy Co, the first player to do the hattrick, accomplished his feat in 1979 only. Teammate Francis Arnaiz did this the year after, making him the second to make the elite club.
At a time when Michael Jordan was still struggling as a high school player, Florencio was already doing what MJ became known for - the twisting hang time layup was probably his greatest human highlight reel in the pros. There was no player that can stop Florencio from scoring - whether it was taking a jumper (there were no three point shots until after 1980) or slashing the lanes or the baseline with his daredevil act. Florencio was the benchmark of many players - Atoy Co himself admitted that Florencio, particularly during his UST days, was a big fan of his. There were only a few players that actually got to play for both Crispa and Toyota in the MICAA and PBA - Jess Sta. Maria who donned #17 with Toyota in the pioneer years is one of them. Another is former Toyota import Byron "Snake" Jones who played for the Comets in 1975 and 1976 and later for Crispa in 1980 and 1981. Florencio belongs to that list, having been a Crispa superstar in the MICAA and later, a Toyota superstar in the PBA.
Younger fans would ask how Florencio made an impact to the PBA and its followers. While a lot of fans have learned to ape the games of their idols Mark Caguioa, Willie Miller, Jimmy Alapag among others, and the relatively older followers having been swayed by the moves of Samboy Lim, Alvin Patrimonio, Vergel Meneses and Johnny Abarrientos, Florencio captured and enthralled the hearts of many basketball followers in their 40's and 50's today because he was truly one of a kind. There was no better scorer than Florencio, and it was easy to relate to him because he only stood at 5'10 in height. But more than anything, Florencio's big heart whenever he plays the game would probably be etched in the memories of basketball fans forever.