By ADRIAN STEWART CO
The NLEX Road Warriors have formally retired the no. 88 jersey of veteran center Paul Asi Taulava, marking the end of his illustrious professional basketball career that spanned 24 years.
The ceremony took place during the halftime of the Road Warriors’ game against sister team TNT Tropang Giga in the 2023 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City yesterday.
“The jersey retirement ceremony will be a poignant moment to pay tribute to the legacy of Asi Taulava, recognizing his immeasurable contributions to Philippine basketball,” the Road Warriors said in a statement.
The 50-year-old Taulava left the league as a member of the 40 Greatest Players, one-time champion, one-time PBA MVP, one-time Best Player of the Conference, and 17-time PBA All-Star.
Taulava arrived in the country in 1997, and played for Blu Detergent in the Philippine Basketball League Vis-Min Cup.
He went on to play in the Philippine Basketball League from 1998 to 1999 for Blu Detergent.
He started his PBA career in 1999 as a direct hire for the Mobiline/Talk N’ Text franchise, where he won his lone PBA title and MVP award in 2003.
He went on to play for the Coca-Cola Tigers, the Meralco Bolts, Air 21 Express, and the Road Warriors.
However, Taulava’s PBA career was not that smooth as he was slapped with a two-game ban in 2003 after he was tested positive for banned drugs during a routine check-up of players.
The 6-foot-9 big man was indefinitely suspended in 2004 after the Department of Justice found out that he and five other Filipino-foreigners had irregular documents.
He made his return to TNT a year later.
Taulava left the PBA in 2012 after a failure in contract negotiations with the Bolts as he went on to suit up for the San Miguel Beer-Philippines in the 2013 ASEAN Basketball League, where he won a championship and an MVP award.
He returned to PBA in 2013.
Taulava was also a fixture in the national men’s basketball team, where he played from 2002 to 2011.
He returned to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in 2015, in the Asian Games in 2018, and in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in the same year./ASC, WDJ