SMB’s ‘Death Five’ remnants now in elite company

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Chris Ross who along with June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter for three-fifths of the famed “Death Five” faction that bannered San Miguel Beer had in the past, have also joined an exclusive company following the Beermen’s run to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup title on Wednesday.

Make way for the trio in the PBA’s 10-time champions’ club.

“We’re definitely blessed to win 10 and we’re gonna try to keep it going,” Ross told the Inquirer after the Beermen’s 104-102 win over the Magnolia Hotshots, which saw the veteran guard knock down a corner three that put them ahead for good despite trailing big in the second half.

The San Miguel trio became the 16th, 17th and 18th players to reach twin digits in championship trophies, with majority of those who did the trick being synonymous with the PBA’s rich history.

On top of the list is Ramon Fernandez, whose 19 championships he collected while playing for Toyota, Tanduay and San Miguel remain the benchmark.

Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde and Bernie Fabiosa had the bulk of their championships as defunct Crispa’s own “Death Five,” as they once made the Redmanizers the PBA’s winningest team with 13 from 1975 until their disbandment after the 1984 season.

Hubalde and Guidaben are tied for second with 16 each, followed by Cezar and Fabiosa with 15 apiece while Co has 14. All five Crispa stalwarts are members of the league’s 25 Greatest Players like Fernandez.

Robert Jaworski, arguably the PBA’s most important figure for his iconic career with Toyota and Ginebra, is also on the chart with 13, so are Alaska greats Johnny Abarrientos (12), Jojo Lastimosa (10) and Bong Hawkins (10).

But the exclusive club is not limited to those with Hall of Fame careers.

Others in group

The late Cris Bolado won 11 as a backup center for Alaska, Purefoods and San Miguel and was labeled as a “lucky charm”; Tito Varela won all 10 with Crispa before eventually becoming a celebrated PBA referee.

Joe Devance, who retired in 2022, captured all of his 12 PBA championships playing for coach Tim Cone at Alaska, San Mig Super Coffee and Ginebra while center Yancy de Ocampo also had the same number of championships for TNT, San Mig and San Miguel.

Before San Miguel’s triumph, the only active player in the group was Magnolia’s Rafi Reavis, already with 12, including his part in the franchise’s 2014 Grand Slam season.

Winning their 10th has a special meaning for Ross, Fajardo and Lassiter, especially at this point of their careers where they are on the verge or have started to see some decline in terms of strength and role.Although Fajardo continues to be a prominent fixture for the Beermen being a lot younger, the other two have seen themselves as complementary figures, with Ross taking an extensive leadership role being a playing assistant coach.



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“We know we’re closer to the end of our careers than to the beginning, so these opportunities don’t come often,” said Ross, who added that there are still plenty of things to conquer.

“We got back-to-back All-Filipino titles coming up, so hopefully we can keep the streak going and get as many as we can before we call it quits,” Ross said as they defend the title they won in 2022.





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