- Listed weight
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- PBA draft
- Pro playing career
Ramon S. Fernandez is generally regarded as the greatest basketball player (and certainly the best and most revolutionary player at the center position) produced by the Philippine Basketball Association. Fernandez won four Most Valuable Player awards and a record 19 PBA championships (the equivalent of 6 championships in the NBA as the PBA runs three championships a year). If overall playing skills, career statistical achievements and championship wins are the benchmarks of greatness, he has no equal. Fernandez scored 18,996 points to finish as the PBA's all-time scoring leader. He is also the PBA's all-time leader in rebounds, blocked shots, and second all-time in assists and steals. He played for five teams in his entire the PBA career starting with Toyota, Manila Beer, Tanduay, Purefoods, and with San Miguel, his last stop. Fernandez played in many overseas tournaments by being a part of the Philippine basketball team.
Fernandez was a product of the University of San Carlos in Cebu and was a member of several national teams. These include the 1972 Asian Youth Championships(Champion), 1973 Asian Basketball Confederation championship team, 1974 World Basketball Championships in Puerto Rico, the 1974 Asian Games in Iran and the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.
In 1975, Fernandez joined the Toyota team in the PBA, joining Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnáiz, Arnie Tuadles, Danny Florencio, and Abe King when they won nine titles from 1975-1983. Fernandez was the 1982 PBA Most Valuable Player, the only time he achieved the award during his days with the fabled Toyota team.
After Toyota's disbandment in 1984, Fernandez and several former Toyota teammates joined Beer Hausen. The move also further ignited a much-publicized feud with former teammate Jaworski. Fernandez won the 1984 MVP award, his second, during his first season with the Lucio Tan-owned franchise, but never led the team to the championship until he was shipped in the middle of the 1985 season to Tanduay for Abet Guidaben.
From 1986-1987, Fernandez along with former Crispa rivals Freddie Hubalde and Padim Israel, J.B. Yango, Willie Generalao, Onchie dela Cruz and imports Rob Williams, Andre McKoy and later, David Thirdkill, led the Rhum Masters to three PBA titles. Fernandez won his third MVP award in 1986.
Tanduay would disband before the 1988 season, but the franchise rights were bought by the Purefoods Corporation. Fernandez would become playing coach, his first coaching stint, of a young team composed of Jerry Codiñera, Jojo Lastimosa, Al Solís, Glen Capacio and later Alvin Patrimonio. In the 1988 Open Conference, he led his new team to a runner-up finish to San Miguel Beer. However, midway through the All-Filipino Conference, he would relinquish his coaching duties to his assistant, Cris Calilan, to concentrate on his game. But in a controversial move, Fernandez was benched during the Finals against Añejo Rhum. The said event led to his transfer to San Miguel Beer in exchange for, the second time, Abet Guidaben. Fernandez would later lead the Beermen to the 1988 Reinforced Conference Championship and also won his fourth MVP Award, becoming the first and the only player to win four MVP awards with four different teams.
Fernandez was a member of San Miguel's historic grandslam in 1989 while making amends with rival Jaworski during the 1989 All-Star Game, when El Presidente scored an undergoal stab off a Jaworski inbound pass at halfcourt, to lead the Veterans to a 132-130 win over the Rookie-Sophomores team. Legendary coach Baby Dalupan, then coaching the Veterans, summoned both players to a historic handshake at centercourt signaling the end of their bitter feud.
In 1990, Fernandez was a member of the Philippine basketball team that won a silver medal in the Beijing Asian Games. El Presidente was supposed to participate in the 1994 Asian Games team, but begged off due to an injury. That year also saw the final season of Fernandez's PBA career when he announced his retirement.
He was the first four-time MVP of the league, winning it in even numbered years during the 1980s—1982, 1984, 1986, and 1988. Considered as the best center to have come out of the PBA, he can however play all five positions on the court with uncanny ability. His trademark one-handed running jumper dubbed the "elegant shot" was his most potent offensive weapon. In 1984, he came awfully close to averaging in triple-double the whole season, being only five assists shy from achieving the feat. He ended his PBA career as the all-time leader in most points scored with 18,996, number two behind Jaworski in assists with 5,220, number one in defensive rebounds with 6,435, number two in offensive rebounds behind Guidaben with 2,217, number one in overall rebounds with 8,652, number one in minutes played with 36624:30, number 2 in games played behind Guidaben, number one in blocks with 1,853, and, only since February 5, 2007, number two behind Johnny Abarrientos in steals with 1,302 (He retired number one in steals in 1994). He ended with career averages of 17.7 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, 4.9 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, and 1.7 blocks per game in 1,074 games.
After his playing career, Fernandez ran for a senatorial seat under the Nationalist People's Coalition in the 1995 elections but lost. In 1998, he became the first commissioner of the defunct professional league, Metropolitan Basketball Association.
In 2000, he was included in the PBA's 25 Greatest Players' list and was awarded during the league's anniversary on April 9, 2000.
In 2003, Fernandez was named the Commissioner of the Collegiate Champions League tournament. A few months earlier, Fernandez was part of the Toyota Tamaraws in the Crispa-Toyota Reunion Game. The highlight of the event was the kickout pass of Fernandez to Jaworski, who sank a three-pointer to seal the Tamaraws' 65-61 win over their bitter rivals, the Redmanizers.
He also became the Commissioner of the now-inactive United Regional Basketball League during its only run in 2004.
Fernandez was also inducted in the PBA Hall of Fame and participated in the Greatest Game, a reunion of several members of the league's 25 Greatest Players, on May 30, 2005 when they lost to the TM Greats team 96-92.
Fernandez is remembered as one of the most popular players during the PBA's golden years and is also one of the most prominent faces in Philippine basketball, even to this day. He remains the poster-boy of many a PBA Legends Reunion game both in the country and abroad.
Fernandez could actually play all five positions on the basketball court, having mastered every skill needed in the point guard, off-guard, forward, power-forward and center slots. He is known for his dribbling skills (unusual for a center during his era), uncanny passing ability, perimeter jumpers, and unstoppable high or low post moves. In an open court game, it was not unusual to see him collar a rebound then dribble down the full length of the court and finish off the break with a lay-up down the middle or a fancy pass to a streaking teammate on the wings. The fact that he could dribble the ball so well came about as a result of him playing point-guard in high school when he was still too short to play the center slot. He is also well known for his trademark one handed running shot dubbed as "the elegant shot.". He could play facing the basket or with his back to it. One major distinguishing aspect of his game and which, amongst other exploits, showed a level of skill unmatched in Philippine basketball before or since, was his ability to drive towards the basket at will during a half-court game. This was remarkable because centers and power-forwards even in today's brand of basketball usually play near or underneath the basket.
Fernandez is perhaps the most ambidextrous player to have played the game since Carlos Loyzaga a generation before him. Almost always, whenever he would get the defensive rebound he would assume the role of "point-center", lead the fast-break, obviously a throwback to his point-guard days, which he himself admitted was a habit he could not break in the pros. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra, Fernandez would dribble the ball running the middle of the court with the ability to hit the open man on either wing or finish a lay-up with either hand. When taking the shot himself, a lot of times he would switch the ball from right hand to left hand often drawing a foul or setting up a three point play. One of his more famous moves was driving down the middle of the lane coming from the right side of the court, faking a right-handed shot and then, at the very last second when the defender has committed himself, switching the ball to his left hand for an up-and-under scoop shot that almost always drew a foul. He had an ambidextrous hook shot that was almost impossible to stop and a weird looking variation of a lay-up that was executed while "fading away" from the basket which made it equally indefensible. His "elegant shot" often came after a right-handed cross-over dribble and moving away from a defender. He used pivot moves, pump fakes, lookaway or no-look passes, looping shots, fadeaways and an array of trick shots from near or under the basket that he executed to flawless perfection and he was doing this even before Kevin McHale wrote his NBA playbook. He owned what was perhaps the craziest no-look pass that was executed on Philippine hardwood because it came about as a fake behind-the-back pass going to one direction only to go the opposite direction at the precise moment when the recipient is ready to receive the pass. His pinpoint passing ability was so devastating to opponents because he could execute them with either hand as well. It didn't matter to Fernandez whether he was hitting the open man through a crowd of defenders or hitting the same open man via a Hail Mary pass from outside the backcourt. Philip Cezar and Abe King, two premier defenders of local players and imports alike, in television interviews, always said that Fernandez was the toughest assignment they ever had to handle.
Fernandez was also one of the least athletic players to have laced on a pair of sneakers in the history of the PBA. He was too thin for a center who had to go up against imports who usually outweighed and outran him. To be sure, there were many other players in his era who were a lot stronger than him. In addition, he did not possess a high vertical leap, hardly ever doing a slam-dunk during a career that spanned about twenty years. But these limitations were offset by the fact that he had astonishing basketball savvy and mental toughness as well as an IQ for the game that was off the charts. Case in point: Fernandez, even on a bad night, can still cut down an opponent, by baiting him into senseless fouls or getting him to react in an unsportsmanlike manner to many pre-designed tirades. One broadsheet called him, upon his retirement, as the man "who could control every variable of the game".
His MVP-stats in the 1984 season of the PBA, where he averaged in double figures in almost all of the major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists), turning in an incredible 27 point-15 rebound-9.9 assist performance (an almost a triple-double season), may never be matched as it stands as perhaps the most dominating individual performance in the history of Philippine professional basketball.
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