February 28, 2024

'Idol ko': Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, other Magnolia players share story behind jersey number


What makes a jersey number special? Technically, it's the easiest way for a casual fan and an unfamiliar opponent to identify a player.

For some players, their number has become legendary and will forever be linked to their name. Think number 7 for the legendary Robert Jaworski. Or 16 for The Captain, Alvin Patrimonio. Or even 8 for Allan Caidic. 

For fans on the street, the colors might be different, the names might be different, but the number will always remembered for their idol.

And for some Magnolia Hotshots players, some of whom are already stars in their own right, their numbers are actually dedicated to their idols.

"Idol ko si Dwyane Wade. 'Yun lang reason ko kung bakit ako nag-three," Paul Lee shared to One Sports.

He previously wore number 20 when he was playing for the UE Red Warriors way back, but he had to switch it up when he was drafted by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters since Jervy Cruz wore the same number.

But it seemed that the stars aligned for Lee, as the clutch sharpshooter has made such a reputation with his cold-blooded three-pointers that the number three became an integral part of his moniker.


Center Russel Escoto shared that his number really was eight, but Magnolia had already retired it for eight-time PBA champion PJ Simon.

The solution seemed easy enough for Escoto. He just doubled it and rocked 88 instead.

"Wedding anniversary namin," he shared to One Sports. "Dinoble ko lang eight para swerte."


Guard Mark Barroca had a similar predicament. His original number was four, but at the time it was taken by Rafi Reavis. He decided to pick a number that still had a four in it.

"Birthday ng asawa ko 'to," he shared. "Parang meant to be talaga na 14."

Plus, he now shares a number with his idol, Johnny Abarrientos.


Many would think 13 is an unlucky number. But Calvin Abueva has embraced it with Magnolia, and it's the luckiest number for him.

"This is for my son," he shared. "Actually, magbi-birthday siya this December 13, turning 13."


For Ian Sangalang, there was no need to look for idols on the court for inspiration with his number 10.

"Birthday ng mama ko," he shared.

It so happened to also fall on the feast of the patron saint in their barangay.


Sometimes, the inspiration you need is just that much closer to home.

(With reports from Mei-Lin Lozada, One Sports Digital)