Danny Ildefonso. Danny Seigle. Nic Belasco. Freddie Abuda. Nelson Asaytono. Dondon Hontiveros.
These former San Miguel players are great in their own right. But having a stellar roster does not automatically translate to victories and championships. They’d need a point guard who can get them going by directing them to spots where they are most comfortable.
Enter Olsen Racela. As the orchestrator of the second great Beermen dynasty, his contributions on the court cannot be seen through gaudy stats. However, his leadership enabled them to dominate the PBA over three seasons and unleash future Hall of Famers such as The Dynamite and Lakay.
This is why his omission from the PBA 40 Greatest Players List is a mystery. Such can be proven based on the criteria set by the selection committee in 2015.
The player must have logged at least four (4) full seasons in the league
After being selected 12th overall in the 1993 PBA Draft, Racela spent his four seasons in the PBA with Purefoods. Though he won two league titles with the franchise, he was mainly a back-up to Dindo Pumaren and Frankie Lim.
But he left his imprint on Philippine basketball when he was traded to San Miguel in 1997 for two second round picks. He started to blossom under the system of Coach Ron Jacobs and became a legendary point guard when Jong Uichico took over. The former Ateneo de Manila University standouts spent 14 seasons with the franchise, collecting seven more championships.
As a testament to his longevity, he played until 40 and became the fifth member of the PBA 900-game club in 2010 after Ramon Fernandez, Robert Jaworski, Abet Guidaben, and Philip Cezar. Racela retired after playing 925 games and is currently ninth in all-time assists (3,085) and seventh in all-time steals (751).
The player must be a recipient of a major award (MVP, Rookie of the Year awardee, Member of the mythical or all-defensive teams)
This is where his case is thin for he is obviously not a league MVP or Rookie of the Year. But for a lengthy period of time, he is one of the best point guards in the league. At the height of the second San Miguel dynasty, he is part of the Mythical First Team in 2000 and 2001. In contrast, some members of the 40 Greatest have not been named to a Mythical First Team in their career. Racela also has three Mythical Second Team selections (1998, 1999, 2004-2005) and six-time All-Star appearances.
The player must have done a major impact with the sport and the league.
Racela did not revolutionize the point guard spot. In fact, he is a throwback to the director of the first Beermen dynasty: Hector Calma.
But his impact is etched in the PBA records books when he orchestrated San Miguel’s reign of dominance to amass five championships in seven finals appearances. As the coach on the hard court, he guided the Beermen to back-to-back Commissioner’s Cup and Governor’s Cup titles in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, Racela and his crew made the finals in all three conferences but only won the All-Filipino tilt against Barangay Ginebra.
The player must have contributed towards the positive development of basketball in the country.
Say what you want about the crucial free throws that he missed against South Korea during the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, but Racela deserved that spot on the Philippine team roster. Plus, he made the three-pointer that gave our national team the lead in the closing stages of that game. Also, let’s not forget that Racela is part of the PBA Centennial Team that bagged bronze in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
Aside from his past glory, he continues to contribute to the sport as a coach. In the PBA, he has been an assistant for Barangay Ginebra since 2014. But in terms of the game’s development in the country, he started to hone future pros when he was named head coach of the FEU Tamaraws in 2017 after his brother Nash, who took the same role for Talk N’ Text. The older Racela guided the Tamaraws to a Final Four stint in his first season and nearly clinched a Finals stint despite a twice-to-beat disadvantage against Ateneo de Manila.
With all proof presented, Olsen Racela should have been included in the PBA 40 Greatest List. But this error in history can be negated if he is will be included in the 50 Greatest. There’s nothing cheerful about him being snubbed come 2025 again. But once he gets in, it’s a rah rah moment for those who passionately follow Philippine basketball.