Who's that punk with the blonde hair?
That was the question on everyone's mind when Mark Caguioa first stepped into the PBA as an unknown rookie out of California. Many didn't even know how to pronounce his last name.
He was the best-kept secret of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings when they selected him as the third overall pick in the 2001 PBA Draft behind Willie Miller (who later became his teammate) and Mike Hrabak (remember him?) of the Red Bull Thunder and the Shell Turbo Chargers, respectively.
As soon as Caguioa played, he was an instant superstar.
His style, moxie, and flashiness were never seen before from such a young guy in the league. Plus, the bright hair that made him stand out even more.
Facebook page PBA Klasiko Games recently posted a few clips of Caguioa in his rookie year playing against the Sta. Lucia Realtors, reminding everyone how The Spark cooked everyone back in the day.
"Walang katinag-tinag itong si Mark Caguioa! Parang, 'All in a day's work,'" said the late Ed Picson who was the play-by-play commentator of the game.
In one of the clips, Caguioa crossed over Kiko Adriano and drove strong to the lane for his patented floater.
"Maganda talaga kumilos itong batang ito," exclaimed Picson's analyst partner Andy Jao.
Even if Ginebra had more established stars like Vergel Meneses, Jun Limpot, and Bal David, it didn't take long for Caguioa to take the mantle and become the face of the country's most popular squad. He easily won as Rookie of the Year.
Because of the meteoric rise of Caguioa, other PBA teams started to scour the United States for their own version of the flamboyant scorer. Guys like Brandon Cablay, Denver Lopez, Rob Johnson, and Kim Valenzuela followed suit, but none of them reached the amount of success that Caguioa did.
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In his later years with Ginebra, the former MVP and nine-time champion, who retired in 2020, didn't see much playing time anymore due to injuries and frankly, his age. This prompted trolls to make him the subject of memes. The disrespect!
Never forget: Caguioa was the alpha dawg. The guy who made arguably the biggest splash as a rookie in the history of the PBA.