GONZALO “Lito” Puyat II, considered the “godfather of Philippine basketball”, has rejoined the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) after a few years’ lull.
“I am deeply honored to accept this position (Chairman Emeritus),” Puyat said moments after his election by acclamation.
Puyat has been very quiet on the raging basketball issue here but decided to break his silence after it became clear that several individuals with vested interests would like to destroy a 70-year sports institution that is the BAP.
“I will not allow this to happen. I spent more than half of my life with basketball and making it the most popular sport in the Philippines. I will not let more than 30 years of my work go down the drain,” said the 73-year-old Puyat, a former assemblyman, longest serving BAP president, two-time FIBA president and an inductee to the International Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts as well as Ateneo’s (his alma mater) Hall of Fame.
Puyat was at the forefront of the Philippines’ campaign to renew the country’s ties with China way back in 1974, when he headed a delegation composed of the best Filipino players which played in Beijing.
That, according to Puyat, was one of the biggest contributions of the BAP, not only to sport, but to diplomacy and politics in this country. That trip paved the way for the establishment of the Philippines-China ties under the watch of the late President Marcos.
Through Puyat, the BAP also hosted the 1978 World Basketball Championships and the 1st Asian Junior Basketball Championships at the Araneta Coliseum. For the first time ever, Europeans teams like Yugoslavia and Italy displayed their brand of basketball before Filipinos.
“How can I let BAP die, considering its tradition and historical past?” asked Puyat. “How can I forget the words of the late FIBA founder and the international body’s first secretary general, Dr. R. William Jones, who cited the Philippines for being the only one of 167 FIBA-member countries which has not changed its official address since the BAP was founded by the late Senator Ambrosio Padilla in 1936.
Philippine basketball is strong, thanks in large measure to the BAP wich has established affiliated organizations all over the country. It still exists because our NOC committed a grave mistake when it “expelled” the BAP. What the NOC should have done was to call for a reorganization of BAP officials instead of “booting (it) out” from the Olympic body and recognizing a new cage body in its place. This, Puyat stressed, was a clear mistake which the FIBA has obviously noted and thus continues to recognize the BAP.
With Puyat as Chairman Emeritus, the BAP has become stronger. His experience, knowledge and tremendous love for the sport of basketball will serve as the BAP’s guiding light as it continues to pursue its vigorous developmental program and its desire to make the Philippines the cage power in Asia.