TOP 12 | AIR21 EXPRESS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME | SYDRIFIED




A reality dawned at the start of the 2014-15 PBA season.

For the first time in 14 years, Air21 – or the Lina franchise for those keeping tabs – has ceased to exist. 

To pay tribute to the Air21 Express, here are the top ten names to ever wear the Ube Republic jersey.

Oh and disclaimer, this is a re-post from I guess a few years back. 

Enjoy. 


STRAIGHT FROM WIKIPEDIA

As you all know, Air21 or the then-FedEx Express, bought the roster ruins of the Tanduay Rhum Masters... sans their stars like Eric Menk, Dondon Hontiveros, Jeffrey Cariaso, and Chris Cantonjos (because of some dastardly ploy Tanduay made after they sold their franchise). For some reason though, Air21 could care less with Bong Hawkins - one of the architects of Alaska's 1996 grand slam run and a dude with a very expensive contract. The inaugural FedEx team was bannered by 90s stars Vergel Meneses, Jerry Codinera, Bong Alvarez and Dindo Pumaren, draft picks Yancy de Ocampo and Renren Ritualo, and MBA stars like Biboy Simon, Gido Babilonia, and Wynne Arboleda.

Simon, Arboleda and Ryan Bernardo were part of the Laguna Lakers team that starred in the MBA.


SCOPE AND LIMITATION

The genealogy of the franchise is kind of complicated because during the 2011-12 PBA season, the Barako Bull Energy Boosters and the Air21 Express (then called the Shopinas.com Clickers) virtually exchanged histories. Now one must ask – how will I deal with this matter? The easiest thing for me to do is to just focus on the players that wore the FedEx, Air21, Burger King, and Shopinas jerseys and leave all the Red Bull and Barako Bull mentions out. 


12 | HOMER SE
The Enforcer
2005 – 09; 2011 

There are a lot of bigger superstars who wore the Air21 uniform like Jerry Codinera, Dindo Pumaren, Mike Cortez, Dondon Hontiveros, Danny Seigle, Don Allado, Marc Pingris, Joseph Yeo, and even Bong Alvarez. However, Homer Se stand out above them. 

Hmmm... 

Why you might ask? 

Homer Se relished the role of being Air21’s lead villain. The former San Sebastian Stag had the on-court demeanor of a grumpy old man that is also a drunken bystander… who will never back down from a challenge! Se especially gets his groove via battling for loose balls and sucking the life out of their team’s tormentors with his suffocating defense. Se would even become the highlight of Ginebra fan dissatisfaction during their lone finals trip because he just doesn’t give a rat’s ass on which Gin King he would elbow. 

Se would become a Gin King right after. 

AVERAGES (?): 5.67PPG • 3.83RPG • 0.68APG


11 | YANCY DE OCAMPO
The Postman
2002 – 04; 2005 – 06

Ever wondered how YDO's career would have turned out if his first PBA team took care of it properly? Remember when people saw Yancy De Ocampo as USBL material? 

When YDO paraded FedEx's haciendero hat when he got the top pick tag in 2002, many thought the St. Francis product will become the next Marlou Aquino. Instead, we find ourselves debating on whether or not EJ Feihl had a better career than this former St. Francis Dove. Fact is, Yancy played outstanding whenever he dons the ube colors and it’s just frustrating that Air21 saw him as mere trade bait.

AVERAGES (?): 7.87PPG • 6.89RPG • 0.74APG


10 | JOHN FERRIOLS 
Big John
2003 – 06

One of the many ex-MBA players that wore the colors of this franchise (even if they insist they are not) is Big John Ferriols. Now unlike former MBA alums like Biboy Simon, Ryan Bernardo, Bruce Dacia, and Danny Capobres, Ferriols adjusted well and had a productive career in the PBA (even if he was more of a role player than a marquee guy). The first ever MBA MVP from the Negros Slashers was efficient in putting the numbers up until his move to the Talk N Text Phone Pals. 

 AVERAGES (?): 8.74PPG • 6.04RPG • 1.02APG


9 | VERGEL MENESES
The Aerial Voyager
2002 – 04
#18 Retired by the Air21 Express

Vergel Meneses was the team’s first superstar. This happened when Ginebra traded The Aerial Voyager for future draft picks (this was the start of Mark Caguioa’s rise to superstardom). Then coach Derrick Pumaren is the driving force behind Sunkist’s almost grand slam and Meneses’ back then was his MVP. Even with his age, Meneses still managed to lead the Express in scoring. In 2004, he was traded to Red Bull for Se but returned to Air21 in 2013 as an assistant coach. 

For his contributions, his number 18 became the only number retired by the squad (even if he wore #8 during his stint). 

AVERAGES (?): 12.20PPG • 2.40RPG • 2.37APG


8 | ASI TAULAVA
The Rock
2013 – 14
1-time PBA Mythical First Team

KG Canaleta and Mike Cortez gave the fans the notion that Air21 can be a haven to resurrect forgotten careers (this is until they moved to the big market franchises). With that said, Asi Taulava sent this notion to another level. Taulava’s insistence to stay away from the Meralco Bolts proved to be a blessing in disguise for The Rock as he showed that he can still dominate despite his age. 

Taulava turned heads with his scoring and rebounding and gave Air21 the never say die spirit Ginebra lacked during the 2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. After an almost-MVP season, there is no doubt that no one will ever question his talents. 

It just sucks though that it was only in Air21’s final season that the fans rallied towards the Ube Republic as their team rights were sold to the NLEX Road Warriors.  

AVERAGES: 14.37PPG • 12.40RPG • 2.14APG


7 | SHAWN DANIELS
The Whopper
2005 – 07; 2008 – 09

Oh, an import. 

I bet you didn't expect this, right?  

Shawn Daniels is not the best of imports especially in the athleticism department because of his bulge. But don't you dare think of Daniels as a patsy. Daniels is not just a ploy to properly market The Whopper (especially back when the team was called Burger King Whoppers). Daniels is basically the ultimate team player. He is one of those role player import archetypes that can make his teammates look good. Daniels enjoyed battling for the boards and passing to open teammates. Daniels played 79 games in three years for Air21. 

It’s just a shame that Air21’s resident import was not able to lead the Ube Republic to a championship.

AVERAGES (?): 17.53PPG • 15.20RPG • 5.37APG • 2.05SPG • 2.25BPG


6 | RENREN RITUALO
The Rainman
2002 – 06; 2009 – 10; 2012 – 14
Rookie of the Year

He was a steal in the 2002 PBA Draft. After selecting Yancy De Ocampo, it was a welcome surprise for the FedEx Express to see Renren Ritualo is still available at the eighth spot. 

Right off the bat, Ritualo showed the fans why the De La Salle Green Archers retired his jersey. Seen by many as the second coming of Allan Caidic, The Rainman took over the scoring chores when the team traded Vergel Meneses. His impressive outside sniping was respected by the entire league and this prompted Chot Reyes to recruit him for the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship. Unfortunately, this prompted Reyes to trade for Ritualo to join the Talk N Text Tropang Texters where he shared minutes with fellow Green Archer, Macmac Cardona

Ritualo would later return to Air21 in 2009 and in 2012 but at this point, he was not the same streak-shooting Rainman they first recruited.

AVERAGES (?): 11.22PPG • 1.68RPG • 1.34APG


5 | NINO CANALETA
KG
2005 – 09; 2012 – 14 
Most Improved Player

Picked behind Jay Washington, Alex Cabagnot, and Macmac Cardona and selected ahead of Larry Fonacier in the 2005 PBA Draft, this five-time PBA Slam Dunk Contest winner became one of the team’s prized performers that weren’t named Arwind, RDO, Snatcher, or El Granada. However, Canaleta’s best season came after he re-joined the squad in 2012. Under the guidance of Franz Pumaren, KG displayed a superb outside arsenal that led to a 16.3ppg scoring average. This one-of-a-kind season earned Canaleta the Most Improved Player title. 

AVERAGES (?): 11.15PPG • 4.45RPG • 0.97APG


4 | RANIDEL DE OCAMPO  
RDO
2004 – 09

While he never won any major awards as part of the squad, Ranidel De Ocampo is one of the franchise’s most trusted inside operators. RDO is one of Air21's three first-round picks in the 2004 PBA Draft (the others being Marc Pingris and Wesley Gonzales) and his role in the squad resembled that of Bong Hawkins. It also helped that aside from an inside game, his outside game is even more terrific to watch. Ranidel De Ocampo was then traded to TNT where he enjoyed his best years as he won a lot of individual and team titles as well as a Gilas Pilipinas stint. 

AVERAGES (?): 11.54PPG • 6.76RPG • 2.25APG


3 | ARWIND SANTOS  
The Spiderman
2006 – 09 
2-time PBA Mythical First Team
1-time PBA Mythical Second Team
1-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year
3-time PBA All-Defensive Team

Air21 had the luxury of picking the scrap left by the Sta. Lucia Realtors in the 2006 PBA Draft. When the Realtors selected Kelly Williams as their first pick, Air21 got Arwind Santos - a former FEU Tamaraw that can multiple positions and has the tendency to dominate the stat sheets. 

With Arwind Santos in their squad, Air21 booked their only trip to the finals against the Barangay Ginebra Kings. When The Spiderman was traded to the San Miguel Beermen, it signaled the end of whatever championship aspirations the team could realistically accomplish. His departure also signaled the conduit tag that stuck the squad until the end of their run because Arwind was traded to San Miguel for Pingris (what should have been his second stint) and Ken Bono but none of these players played for the squad. 

AVERAGES: 15.76PPG • 8.60RPG • 1.30APG • 1.08SPG • 1.27BPG


2 | GARY DAVID
Mr. Pure Energy
2005 – 09
1-time PBA Mythical First Team
1-time PBA All-Defensive Team
Most Improved Player
Sportsmanship Awardee

Gary David soared to unforeseen ranks as part of the Express roster. After a rookie year in Coca-Cola where he languished on the bench after playing behind Jeffrey Cariaso, David delivered the offense as part of Air21. El Granada is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and one of three Air21 players to score 3000 points for the squad. When Renren Ritualo was traded to Talk N Text, Gary D quickly provided the offensive spunk he was once known for while playing for the Montana Pawnshop Jewelers in the PBL

In the team’s lone finals appearance, the propelled the team with his insane shotmaking abilities – and for his season-long brilliance, he got gifted with a couple of awards like a Mythical 5 selection and a Most Improved Player award. 

AVERAGES (?): 14.50PPG • 2.75RPG • 1.51APG


1 | WYNNE ARBOLEDA
The Snatcher
2002 – 12; 2012 – 14
1-time PBA Mythical Second Team
2-time PBA Defensive Player of the Year
4-time PBA All-Defensive Team

It’s not like you didn’t know this is going to happen. 

After all, The Snatcher is the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds, assists, steals, games, and minutes played. 

Arboleda has been with the team ever since Tanduay was bought out by FedEx. Coincidentally, this is the same person that owned his former MBA team, the Laguna Lakers. If not for the Air21-Barako Bull team switch, Arboleda would have been the only player to play for the team since its start until its end. 

In fact, his time with the team turned personal when Pareng Wynne exchanged vows with the daughter of the franchise’s owner. While he never became the team’s biggest superstar… and despite that one time when a sudden lack of judgment prompted him to go apeshit on a fan… I believe Wynne Arboleda deserves the tag of being Air21’s most important player.

AVERAGES (?): 7.97PPG • 3.74RPG • 3.92APG • 1.57SPG 



Now I don’t have access to the exact PBA stat sheets since I’m just a fan who is sick to death at the fact that if Basketball Reference can do it for the NBA, then why can’t someone do it for the PBA, the stats I will give you pretty much resembles how their Air21 seasons turned out. 

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