THANKS to Thirdy Ravena's coming stint in the Japanese B.League, the PBA's Mr. Excitement was reminded of his final return to the local pro league in 2005 after his own foray in a league abroad.
Bong Alvarez had his PBA swansong with Red Bull under coach Yeng Guiao after bringing his stuff with the Pennsylvania ValleyDawgs in the United States Basketball League in 2004.
Together with Vince Hizon, the two former Ginebra players were brought to the USBL by then renowned Filipino US-based import agent and ValleyDawgs general manager Sam Unera.
"Great experience. Napalaban ako ng palakasan ng katawan doon, at pagbalik ko sa Pinas, kundisyon na kundisyon ako, pinapirma ako ni coach Yeng sa Red Bull," said Alvarez.
And, thus, Alvarez, at 37, got to end his pro career fittingly in the very league he took by storm as a young high-leaping sensation in 1989.
He took his act for a time in the Metropolitan Basketball League then in the USBL, but had his farewell tour in the PBA, capping a colorful journeyman career with stints with the Alaska Milkmen, the Sta. Lucia Realtors, the Formula Shell squad, the San Miguel Beermen, the Ginebra Kings, the FedEx Express, the Talk n Text Phone Pals and finally the Red Bull Barakos.
"There's no place like home. Bored na bored ako sa States," said Alvarez.
"Mahirap, lalo na yung roommate ko palit ng palit kasi laging may napapalitan sa lineup. Usually, point guard ang roommate ko, eh point guard lagi naman yung laging napapalitan," said Alvarez, recalling his journey with the team of coach Darryl Dawkins.
They had their decent showing in the ValleyDawgs' 2004 championship run, but Alvarez and Hizon weren't re-signed, with the team's Filipino general manager getting sick.
But Alvarez was happy where he ended up in his PBA return.
"Nagkasama kami uli Vergel (Meneses)," said Alvarez of his reunion at Red Bull with the Aerial Voyager. They were teammates earlier at FedEx.(SB)