MANILA, February 21, 2005 
(STAR) Efren "Bata" Reyes and Francisco "Django" Bustamante take on two unfancied rivals today as they open their respective bids in the P1 million All-Filipino Billiards Open at the studios of IBC-13 at Broadcast Center in Quezon City.

Reyes, coming off a victory in the 2005 Derby City Classic in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, faces Carlo Viado, a 21-year-old cue artist from Moncada, Tarlac, while Bustamante, who also topped the 2005 Weert 10th ball Open in Netherlands recently, collides with former snooker player Joven Alba in the featured matches in the event which stakes P500,000 to the winner.

Format will be a race-to-9 alternate break.

The other opening round matches to be aired from 8 p.m.-10:30 p.m. are reigning world champion Alex Pagulayan against Roberto Dy and 2003 Vietnam SEA Games double gold winner Lee Van Corteza against another snooker star Luis Saberdo.

Another snooker player Marlon Manalo, the 2001 world snooker runner-up in Akita, Japan, tangles with 20-year-old Jeffrey De Luna, while Leonardo Andam takes on Gandy Valle. Other matches pit Warren Kiamco against Antonio Gabica, and Rodolfo Luat testing the mettle of Edgar Acaba.

The top finisher in the Last 16 outside of Reyes, Bustamante, Corteza will qualify in the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball Tour.

Where is Billy Ray Bates now? THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco The Philippine Star 02/21/2005

Ginebra San Miguel celebrated its latest PBA conquest, the Philippine Cup, at a big party at the San Miguel Corporation headquarters, with hundreds of fans and members of the media in attendance. The triumphant Kings turned over the championship trophy to the team owners. A few of us who’ve been around long enough suddenly recalled the man responsible for giving Ginebra its first-ever PBA title, 19 years ago.

He was known as the "Black Superman," and he did everything to live up to his moniker. He covered his huge body with headbands, wristbands, glinting gold, chains, and Grosby sneakers in the most outrageous color combinations. He made Crispa and Ginebra champions of the PBA.

Billy Ray Bates had an up-and-down career, beginning at Kentucky State. Drafted by Houston in the third round in 1978, Bates was cut by the Rockets before the season started. He ended up starting for the Maine Lumberjacks in the Continental Basketball Association. He won Rookie of the Year and the slam dunk competition in its All-Star game. Finally, in February of 1980, he signed a four-year deal with the Portland Trailblazers. Towards the end of the regular season, the NBA named him Player of the Week. There were a few great "in your face moments," though, like the time he drove in for a tomahawk dunk and bowled over Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins, who himself named all of his dunks. There were some shooting sprees, although Bates never averaged fifty percent from the field in his NBA career.

Unfortunately, there were signs that the 6’4" guard, nicknamed "Dunk," would have to make major changes in his game and attitude for him to stick in the NBA. The league’s yearbook said he was a great rebounder and dunker, but noted that those skills were not needed for his position. He once slept through the first half of a home game, arriving at halftime. Needless to say, this did not bode him well. In September of 1982, he had been cut from the team. Bates checked into a Portland hospital, allegedly for drug treatment. He split the next season between the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Bullets, but was overweight and out of shape.

Then he came to the Philippines, and the rest is history.

The Crispa Redmanizers, with five players who already were or would eventually become league MVP, were looking for a second Grand Slam. Bates won them the 1983 Reinforced Conference championship, as well as the Best Import award. The ex-Trailblazer also won the year’s Open Conference Best Import award and teamed up with former New York Knick to complete the three-conference Grand Slam sweep. He became our version of Julius Erving, revolutionizing the fastbreak game with his thunderous dunks and long-range bombs, averaging an astonishing 64.5 percent from the field and a high of 64 points in one game. Television game shows had dunking contests on miniature goals. Grosby made him an endorser, and fashioned dozens of models of high-cut basketball shoes in unprecedented color combinations for him. The world was his.

"He is one of the best imports to ever play in the PBA," recalls Pasig councilor and PBA MVP Atoy Co, who was Bates’s teammate in the backcourt. "He could shoot from three-point range; he could take it inside. He was so strong, nobody could stop him, no matter the size of other imports."

But, alas, there was a catch.

"The problem was the discipline of this guy. Maraming bisyo (He had many vices)," Co explains. "Even when they blocked his car, by midnight, he had a taxi waiting to take him to all these girlie joints. He’s the only player I’ve ever seen come home early in the morning, and we had a championship game that night.He’d come to practice with a mixture of orange juice and Johnny Walker! That’s a different kind of screwdriver."

"Those people, they loved me," Bates was quoted as saying in The Oregonian. "There, I was like Michael Jordan. I could have anything I wanted. All I had to do was snap my fingers. I had my own condo, my own car and my own bodyguard with an Uzi. Had to fight off the women." "What I remember most is how flamboyant he was," remembers Dr. Val Floro Herbosa, a prominent dermatologist and daughter of the late Danny Floro, Crispa’s team owner. "Everything matched, and he was shining from all the gold jewelry he wore. I was in college at the time, and it really made a big impression on me." The Black Superman flew to Switzerland, The World Basketball League back in the US, tried a few seasons in Mexico–even a season in Uruguay. But he never seemed to prosper for long. Finally, on January 17, 1998, Billy Ray Bates robbed a New Jersey Texaco station at knifepoint, slashing the ear of attendant Philip Kittel. He was sentenced to seven years in the process, with a release date of March 23, 2005. Billy Ray Bates’s Ginebra years in this column on Saturday.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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