Thirty six years before the emergence of Justin Brownlee, Norman Black was a prime candidate for naturalization that would have given him a chance to play for the national team in major international tournaments.
But a sorry event happened, leaving Black brokenhearted and his dream of playing for the country trapped inside the dustbin of basketball history.
A two-time Best Import, Black was still playing for Magnolia in 1985 when former President Ferdinand Marcos granted Filipino citizenship to basketball stars.
Through the effort of basketball godfather Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the naturalization process was only applicable to amateur stars that made Jeff Moore and Dennis Still as the first United States-born players to don the national colors in the Asian Basketball Confederation in 1985.
Professional players like Black were only allowed to play in major international events in 1989, paving the way for the PBA to send an all-professional team to the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing and the National Basketball Association to deploy the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Black said he could have joined Moore and Still as naturalized players.
“I was willing to do it,” Black said in a telephone conversation with Daily Tribune on Saturday.
“But Mr. Cojuangco left for the United States together with President Marcos during the EDSA Revolution and the rest was history. Nobody pursued it after that.”
He said becoming a naturalized player would have been very easy.
“It would have been an easier process since I am married to a Filipina.”
The closest Black ever got to be with the national team was in 1990 when he was tapped to serve as one of the assistant coaches of Robert Jaworski in the Asian Games.
By then, he was already a full-time coach and only plays as a replacement import whenever San Miguel Beer brings in a lemon reinforcement.
“I played for the Philippines three times, but these were exhibition games against the Chinese national team,” Black said, recalling his memorable battle with Chinese stars Song Ligang, Shan Tao and Gong Luming.
“The first was in Leyte during the birthday of then First Lady Imelda Marcos; the second was at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium; and the third was at the Philsports Arena along with Mon Fernandez and Sonny Jaworski. We won all those games.”
Black eventually retired as a player and focused on coaching San Miguel, where he won nine of his 11 PBA titles capped by a rare grand slam in 1989.
Black hopes his son, Aaron, can play for the national team someday since he was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother.
And if that happens, the son will be able to accomplish what the father failed to do 36 years ago.