IT’S ALWAYS been great to win a PBA title as a ka-barangay. But winning it as a kabayan takes the winning feeling to a whole new level.
“Man, it makes it even more special,” said a beaming Justin Brownlee as Barangay Ginebra savors its ascension to the Season 47 PBA Commissioner’s Cup throne.
Mr. Brownlee — “Justin Noy-pi” or “Kabayan JB” to the Ginebra faithful — led the Gin Kings past Hong Kong’s Bay Area in a seven-game, Philippines-versus-foreign invaders duel barely three days after being granted Filipino citizenship by the newly-enacted Republic Act 11937.
Fittingly, the three-time Best Import and his brothers-in-arms protected home turf and defended local pride via a 114-99 repelling of the Dragons in front of a record crowd of 54,589 at the Philippine Arena.
“We played with all Filipinos tonight, for the first time since I’ve been here. So, that was very special,” Mr. Brownlee said.
“All my teammates definitely congratulated me and they were telling me how proud they are of me becoming a Filipino. It was very special. And just to top it off with a win. This win is not only for Ginebra, this is for the whole country. We played an international team who came out and played tough,” he added.
With this triumph, Mr. Brownlee maintained his perfect batting average in the PBA finals. He previously hoisted the hardware in the 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021 Governors’ Cup and 2018 Commissioner’s Cup.
The highly sentimental feat against the tough Dragons augurs well for Mr. Brownlee’s forthcoming debut for Gilas Pilipinas.
“The journey’s still ongoing for Justin (Brownlee),” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who is also working with the well-loved naturalized player in his role as assistant to Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
“This (Mr. Brownlee’s first title as a Filipino) isn’t the end for him. He’s going to go to a whole new level — play internationally, play for the national team. I know he’s excited about that,” he added. — Olmin Leyba