Remembering the disaster before the 2002 Asian Games.
Filipinos love “What ifs.” That intensifies when it comes to basketball, which the country has embraced and widely regarded as a religion since God knows when.
What if Jayson Castro were 6-foot-6? What if Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t part ways in the early 2000s? What if Aljon Mariano passed the ball to Jeric Teng?
The list goes on.
What ifs give them something to talk about over beer or gin. They help them ease the pain of a stinging defeat. They help them make better choices in the future. Or maybe there’s just a calming feeling whenever one thinks about what could have been?
But perhaps the mother of all What ifs, at least for older PBA fans, is Danny Seigle in the 2002 national team.
Seigle was one-third of the formidable San Miguel Beermen Big 3 in the early 2000s along with Danny Ildefonso and Olsen Racela. Dynamite Danny could do pretty much everything. He could shoot, he could bully his way into the basket with a flurry of finishes in his bag, you name it.
That’s why not a few were excited to see him be part of the Jong Uichico-led team gearing up for the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea.
But the excitement quickly turned into disappointment.
In a tune-up game against Qatar days before the Asian Games, Seigle ruptured his Achilles. Remember, this was the injury that pretty much ended the late great Kobe Bryant’s career.
The Filipino-American forward was going for a block at the Smart Araneta Coliseum when the accident happened.
It was September 2002, and there’s not much technology could do about the injury. Consequently, the 6-foot-6 cager missed the remainder of the 2002 PBA season and the entirety of the following year.
What if Seigle didn’t get hurt and played for the national team then?
It's not preposterous to think that he and Asi Taulava could have formed a superstar duo that could have taken the national team to the gold. Maybe Seigle could have been the RP team's biggest star that year.
Perhaps they would not have needed Racela to make two free throws to seal the win against South Korea—because Seigle would have done enough to give them a comfortable lead, saving his SMB point guard from a haunting basketball memory.
It's also not crazy to think that a healthy year 2002 for Seigle may have launched him into the PBA stratosphere of greatness. He himself said he felt he was at his very best from 1999 to 2001, when he stacked up trophies. In that span, he won the Finals MVP four times and he was named to the Mythical First Team three times. He was also Rookie of the Year. An MVP season was bound to come, but the injury happened.
Seigle would have made a world of difference in the Asiad, but would the outcome have been any different?
It's just the way sports fandom is. When we're bathing in a marinade of frustration over what could have been, we resort to “What ifs."
It is hoped fans would never spend the rest of their lives thinking about what could have been when Gilas Pilipinas try to reclaim glory in the Asian Games this month.
While they were confronted with lineup woes, the Filipino cagers have remained unperturbed and continued the build up at the Inspire Sports Academy in Laguna.