Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Tribute to Carlos Loyzaga, the Greatest Filipino Basketball Player Ever


Carlos Loyzaga was born on August 26, 1930 in Manila. He first played basketball at his neighborhood in Santa Mesa, Manila in Teresa Valenzuela Athletic Club (TERVALAC).Gabby Fajardo, another Filipino basketball great took notice of Loyzaga’s playing skill and height. He later helped him hone his skill in the game.


In college Loyzaga tried to play at Collegio de San Juan Letran, but the coach gave him the cold shoulder. He eventually suited up with San Beda College where he was instrumental in giving the school three titles for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1951, 1952 and 1955. It was in San Beda where Loyzaga earned the sobriquet “the Big Difference” because his presence on the court was a factor in the winning of the game.

After college, he joined the famed YCO team in 1954 which was owned by businessman Manolo Elizalde. With him as one of the team’s key players, YCO was able to win 8 consecutive National Open Championships from 1954 to 1960 and five MICAA Championships.


Loyzaga’s stint with YCO was the time of a fierce rivalry with another equally fabled team named Ysmael Steel for basketball supremacy starting in 1958.Both were the dominant teams in the MICAA tournaments, and the championship trophy went to either team. Other teams could hardly snatch a title with YCO and Ysmael Steel around. Basketball fans and generally Filipinos loved to see both teams play against each other. The team’s rivalry in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s furthered Filipinos love for basketball and star players were celebrities. With good players playing either for YCO or Ysmael Steel it followed then that most players who played for the country in international competition mostly came from both teams.

Loyzaga had an imposing presence on the court. The Spanish Basque mestizo was unusually tall at 6’3” for the average Filipino during his time. His size, good look and playing skill made him stand out from other players, and he was one of the fans’ favorites. Loyzaga was also the most valuable player of the painters, the name which the basketball players of YCO were called.

The decades of the early 50’s and the 60’s were the golden era of Philippine basketball when the country dominated almost all of the tournaments in Asia. With Loyzaga as one of the country’s key player, the Philippines won four consecutive gold medals in 1951, 1954, 1958 and 1962 in the Asian Games. With Loyzaga in the team, the Philippines won the1960 and the 1963 Asian Basketball Conference which is now called FIBA Asia.


Philippine’s great moment in basketball came in 1954 during the Second World Basketball Games (now called FIBA World) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Powered by Carlos Loyzaga and Lauro Mumar, the country garnered the bronze medal or third place. That ranking is the highest ever for an Asian country in that competition. Adding flavor to the Philippine team accomplishment was the inclusion of Loyzaga in the game’s Mythical Five players. Loyzaga averaged 16.4 points per game in the tournament. The Philippines was not as fortunate in the 1959 Fiba World in Santiago de Chile, Chile where it placed only 8th..

RP team to the 1959 FIBA World. Loyzaga is the no. 3
Loyzaga on the floor
Philippine’s basketball contingent always included Carlos Loyzaga in its team. Loyzaga played for the country’s basketball team for the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki where the Philippines placed 9th. He played again for the country in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne where the team placed 7th. He could have made it again to the 1960 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. However, he broke his wrist while playing softball and for his injury he had to beg off from the Olympics.


Age caught up with him, and Loyzaga retired from active competition in 1964. But he continued to be in basketball as head coach of YCO. He also coached for the UST varsity team as well as the national team in international competitions. The mid 60’s saw the rise of other countries in Asia which bested the Philippines in basketball. Loyzaga now as a coach brought the Philippines back to glory when he steered his team to the championship by defeating arch rival South Korea in the 1967 ABC or FIBA Asia. The victory so much delighted the basketball loving Filipinos so that coach Loyzaga and the players were treated with a parade in the streets of Manila, and an audience with President Ferdinand Marcos at Malacanang Palace. In the 1968 Loyzaga coached the Philippine Basketball Team in Summer Olympic Games in Mexico. The team placed only 13th in a field of 16 participating countries.

The professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) opened in 1975, and most of YCO’s key players were moved to its sister team Tanduay in the new league. In the PBA Loyzaga coached U/TEX and Tanduay teams.

Carlos Loyzaga, died at Cardinal Santos Medical Center on January 27, 2016 at age 85.  His children are former basketball players Chito and Joaquin and movie actresses Bing and Teresa. Loyzaga is one of the greatest players who played basketball in the Philippines. He has given the Philippines a great service by representing the country in various international competitions on which the Philippines garnered several medals or got a respectable finish.  The honor that he gave his country as an athlete had made the Filipinos proud of their country. Loyzaga was inducted to the Philippine National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and was conferred the Philippine Sportswriters Association Athlete of the Century Award in 2000.