Benjie ParasManila, May 5, 2003 -- In local basketball, he's practically a legend. In the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

He was the first-and so far the only player to win both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors in a single season. He is also a two-time MVP, five-time Mythical Team member, eight-time PBA all-star and is included in the list of the 25 PBA greats, an honor roll that includes basketball luminaries like Robert Jaworski, William "Bogs" Adornado and Ramon Fernandez.

Everyone knows that Benjie Paras' passion is basketball. Thus, the announcement of his early retirement shocked most people who felt that, at 34 - and despite several career threatening injuries - Benjie still had a number of good playing years in his hand.

Although, there are speculations that the trouble between him and the Shell management forced him to retire, Benjie refuses to comment on the issue.

He says he owes Shell so much for it was the only team he ever played for during his 14 years in the PBA. "All I've told people is that there is a big reason behind my retirement. When I am ready, I will tell everyone what that reason is," he says.

"Dadating din tayo diyan."

In the meantime, Benjie is looking forward to doing other things. On top of the list is playing single dad to his two sons, Andre (named after tennis star Andre Agassi) and Kobe (named after Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers), a role that he is enjoying immensely. Then, there's also his flourishing showbiz career, a thing he has never paid much attention to because of basketball.

Now, aside his regular show "Kool Ka Lang," Benjie is considering movie offers as well as a new soap opera, titled "Narito Ang Puso Ko" which will star Raymart Santiago. It will air on GMA-7 this May.

No, Benjie is not going to shift to heavy drama. He is going to be the comic relief in the new soap.

"I enjoy comedy," says Benjie, who counts Jim Carrey and Rowan Atkinson (recently seen in the movie "Johnny English") among his favorite comedians.

Benjie's showbiz career is being managed by Girlie Rodis of TalentWorks Asia. He has been under Girlie's care for ten years now.

"It's going to be really exciting, because I have more options now, career-wise," says Benjie. "I am really looking forward to all the opportunities that are going to come my way."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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