The country’s original cage icon, Carlos ‘Caloy’ Loyzaga, died last Jan 27 at age 86.
Arguably the best basketball player the Philippines ever produced, Loyzaga was responsible for giving the Philippines – and Asia, for that matter – its best finish ever in any world basketball stage. This glorious bronze-medal winning event happened in the 1954 FIBA World Championships in Brazil, where the legendary Loyzaga wowed the crowd with a brilliant giant-killing performance that propelled him to the Tournament’s Mythical Team selection. This would be the first and only time for an Asian to receive such an honor.
Loyzaga’s cage exploits in the country were simply unmatched. During his college days with the San Beda Red Lions, he annexed 3 NCAA championships, finally retiring the coveted Zamora Cup in 1955.
He then led the Yco Painters to 7 consecutive national championships, from 1954 to 1960, a feat never before or ever after surpassed nor replicated. He became the marquee attraction of the MICAA league, the predecessor to today’s premiere PBA league. Toward the end of his playing career, he would become a multi-titled playing-coach. Long before Bill Russell became a playing coach for the much-ballyhooed Boston Celtics in the NBA, Loyzaga had blazed that trail.
As a player, he led the Philippine national team to gold medal finishes in 4 consecutive Asian Games (1951, 1954, 1958 and 1962) and in 2 successive FIBA Asia Championships (1960, 1963), bringing the country to the top of Asian Basketball. It is significant to note that his retirement in 1964 also signaled the end of the country’s basketball dominance in Asia, finally losing the FIBA Asia crown to Japan in 1965.
His exemplary feats made basketball the most popular team sport in the country during those glorious golden years. He is generally credited for having raised the level of awareness for the sport, eventually luring in the country’s next cage stars such as Narciso Bernardo, Bobby Jaworski, Mon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio in the decades to come.
Nicknamed ‘The Big Difference’, Loyzaga had the looks, the charisma and the cage IQ that bedazzled friends, foes, fans and femmes the world over. At 6′ 3″, he played center for the Nationals, but his speed and skill would have made him a point center long before Mon Fernandez popularized the position during those early basketball days. He was already playing ambidextrous at a time when fancy dribbling was only for such superstars as Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson or the fun-loving Harlem Globetrotters.
Indeed, Loyzaga’s pioneering efforts to entertain and bring the country prestige and pride were instrumental in influencing the success, the popularity and the financial rewards our players and teams reap today in Philippine basketball.
After retiring, Loyzaga continued to bring honor to the country by coaching the national team to a dramatic gold-regaining medal finish in the 1967 FIBA Asia Championship. He continued to coach in the MICAA and then the PBA, before migrating to Australia. He returned to the Philippines in 2013, after suffering a stroke in 2011.
Loyzaga married Vicky Cuervo, with whom he had 5 kids. Sons Chito and Joey would later follow his footsteps, playing pro ball in the PBA. Two daughters – Bing and Teresa – would join show business.
Caloy Loyzaga was not just a great player. He was a mentor, a coach, a friend and a great family man. He will certainly be remembered with fondness and love.
(Photos courtesy of spin.ph, philstar.com, inquirer.net, spot.ph, skyscrapercity.com, bworldonline.com, roilogolezblogspot, theunknowngazetteblogspot, interbasket.net, mb.com)
- Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)