Jimmy Alapag: Epitome of Hard Work, Leadership, and Resilience
Ask any Filipino if the name "Jimmy Alapag" rings a bell-and I'm sure they're going to answer you with more than just a resounding yes. Have played larger than his 5'9"- and 160 lbs-frame suggests, the point guard nicknamed"The Mighty Mouse" had already decided to hang his jersey after an illustrious professional and international career, only to pull it back down and over his head once again to suit up back onto the hard court. Talk about #PUSO.
Jim Olmedo Alapag, the youngest of Crispin and Aurora's six children, was born and raised in San Bernardino, California, where he played college ball at California State University, making a name for himself as a clutch three-point shooter. But Jimmy, humble as he is, acknowledges that he didn't get there on his own.
Growing up with his father and older brothers always playing basketball, Jimmy says he fell in love with the sport at three years old. He credits his brothers as his first idols-they were the first to tell him how he had to work harder than everybody else, being shorter and smaller than his American opponents.
In a country of giants, the Mighty Mouse showed how he deserved the moniker. He's made a living out of being the hardest working guy in the locker room-hitting the gym earlier than everyone else and working on his shooting. Ever since he was in elementary, high school, and college, he's trained himself to make three-pointers at the most crucial moments of a game.
Aurora, Jimmy's mother, recalls how Jimmy would play against Harvey Carey's team back in college;"Every time Jimmy's team [Cal State San Bernardino] played Harvey's team [Sonoma State] in Jimmy's university, Harvey's team always lost at the buzzer because of Jimmy's three point shot."
Notorious for being deadly from three and making them when they count the most, Aurora adds in jest how Jimmy's been branded as the"Sonoma Killer," as they would still beat Harvey and Sonoma, even as the visiting team in the presence of a hostile crowd.
The hard work, in Jimmy's world, doesn't stop at sharpening his shooting stroke. Physical conditioning is a significant aspect of longevity in athletics. After coming out of retirement at 38 years old and playing 12 seasons in the PBA, he works out just as hard as the rookies he's mentoring. Jimmy is a vocal leader, on and off the court, but his actions speak just as loud, if not louder.
Through more than 500 games played in the league, he has kept on sprinting up and down the court for stop-and-pop treys, fast break lay-ups, no-look passes, and go-ahead assists in leading the Talk 'N Text franchise to winning six championships. His individual awards; Rookie of the Year, League MVP, Finals MVP, and All-Star Game MVP, among many others, speak of how his leadership is translated on the hard court. But more than these statistics, awards, and championships, Jimmy has led a country so in love with basketball, to world recognition.
In the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship semifinals, the Gilas Pilipinas Team Captain scored 14 points-including a cold-blooded three with 54 seconds left in the game, to serve as the dagger ending nearly three decades of heartbreak against the South Korean national basketball team. During those dwindling seconds in the final canto, the Koreans had been relentless; refusing to be put away for good by getting the calls, making their free throws, and trimming the Gilas lead down to two, but in the ensuing possession, Jimmy used a screen, took two dribbles to his left and pulled up-countless Filipinos watching live and in their homes shed tears, for no words would have sufficed.
“This is for our country. We've been fighting and fighting and fighting to get back to the level of top Asian basketball," he had said. As a leader, Jimmy has proven that he knows how to win, but against time… we aren't so sure.
Early in 2015, the Mighty Mouse announced his retirement, opting to serve as an assistant coach for Gilas Pilipinas and team manager to the Tropang Texters. But it wouldn't take long before the game beckoned, and realizing how he still had time, he laced up and moved from the Talk 'N Text management to the Meralco Bolts roster-the Jimmy Alapag comeback was real.
In their recently concluded conference, the Bolts made it to the semifinals, only losing to the Alaska Aces after five games and a Jimmy Alapag injury. Even after sustaining a broken hand in that knockout game, Jimmy was able to corral a rebound for a one-handed pass to Arinze Onuaku, and despite the playoff exit, consider how a once-retired vet took a young Bolts team to the semis-a sizeable improvement from a 1-10 record in the Philippine Cup.
What's in store for the Mighty Mouse? The FIBA Olympic qualifiers has its doors open for the long range sniper and playmaker, along with the Bolts rookies, Baser Amer and Chris Newsome, looking to Jimmy as their mentor-a role that he welcomes.
Hard work, leadership, and resilience-these are three traits Jimmy Alapag exemplifies. A true Pinoy mover, Jimmy Alapag deserves his place in the league's 40 Greatest Players of all time.