They applauded, cheered and expressed gratitude for his fruitful 12-year career that helped shape Philippine basketball into what it is today.
Before an appreciative crowd at the Puerto Princesa Coliseum, the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters retired Alapag's number 3 jersey at halftime of the main event in the 2015 PBA All-Star Weekend on Sunday, March 8 at Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The 5-foot-9 point guard, who announced his retirement after the 2015 Philippine Cup last January, received his jersey encased in a glass frame, never to be used by any Talk 'N Text player again.
“It’s always been my dream, bata pa lang ako (since I was a child), to be here with all of these incredible people and this incredible league,” said Alapag, who was overcome with emotion and in tears for much of the ceremony. “I feel so very blessed for the last 12 years to have been a part of the PBA’s rich history.”
Alapag’s long-time friends in the league came together for the ceremony. PBA Commissioner Chito Salud led the ceremony, thanking Alapag for his contributions.
“Thank you for elevating the level of play in the PBA. Thank you for your integrity and leadership,” Salud spoke on behalf of the league.
Former Talk ’N Text and national team coach Chot Reyes was also in attendance.
“It’s been a hell of a ride my friend. Thank you for making my job easier, thank you for being the perfect player,” Reyes said. “And like I’ve told you so many times, you’ve had so many achievements. But the best years of your life are yet to come.”
Wife LJ Moreno broke down in tears and had trouble speaking. But she managed to praise Alapag and share how she is taking the retirement much harder than her husband.
“I’m just really really proud with all your achievements. Thank you for being not just a great basketball player but also a great man,” she said. “I married a legend.”
In his speech, Alapag expressed his gratitude to everyone that has been a part of his storied journey.
“As a basketball player you dedicate your life to training and practicing and competing against the best players of our country. I’ve been blessed to do it these last 12 years,” he choked up. “Maraming maraming salamat (Thank you very, very much).”
Already a legend in his own right, Alapag, 37, had a long and decorated career with the Texters in the PBA starting with a Rookie of the Year crown in 2003.
He has since become a 6-time PBA champion, a one-time PBA Most Valuable Player in 2011, a one-time Best Player of the Conference awardee in the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup, and a member of the PBA’s Top 40 Greatest Players list.
Alapag is also considered a primary figure in establishing the Philippine national team.
He displayed his tremendous fighting spirit – and embodied the country’s battlecry of “puso” or heart – when he carried Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, draining triple after triple from way beyond the arc as the Philippines surpassed expectations and nearly took down world basketball giants.
He eventually led the country to its first World Cup victory in 40 years.
Alapag is currently team manager for Talk ’N Text and an assistant coach for Gilas Pilipinas.
Alapag was initially supposed to retire his jersey at the start of the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup but it was moved to the All-Star Weekend.
“This is one of the most special,” he spoke of his final All-Star appearance in a broadcast interview. “Kasi sobrang tagal ko na sa PBA (Because I’ve been here so long in the PBA) and to have that one last opportunity to play in this kind of setting here in Palawan.”
It was a fitting way for the 11-time All-Star to hang up his sneakers for good as he participated in the annual showcase as part of the South All-Stars. He also took part in the Three-point Shootout but was unable to bag a follow-up to his 2003 title.
It was bittersweet ending, too, as he played side by side former teammate 42-year old Asi Taulava for the last time. Taulava and Alapag formed a lethal combo at Talk ’N Text from 2003-2007. They were co-MVPs at the 2004 All-Star Game.
“Jimmy, thank you. Thank you for being such a good friend. Being a great little brother for me,” a teary-eyed Taulava said.
“Thank you for giving me all the advice throughout my career. Thank you for what you’ve done for Philippine basketball. You put Philippine basketball on the map.” – Rappler.com