American basketball player Bobby Parks, Sr., the Philippine Basketball Association’s only seven-time Best import awardee, has died after a long battle with laryngeal cancer. He was 51.
Parks passed away late Saturday afternoon at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, where he had been confined for several months now after his cancer, which he first beat two years ago, suddenly recurred.
Parks, whose son Bobby Ray Jr. plays for the National University Bulldogs and is the reigning Most Valuable Player of the Universities Athletics Association of the Philippines, was the coach of the San Miguel Beermen in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) but was forced to take a leave of absence last year after falling ill again.
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The six-foot three Parks played for Memphis State in college and was the Atlanta Hawks’ third-round pick in the 1984 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. He never got to suit up for the Hawks in the regular season, and in 1987 he made his debut on Philippine soil, leading San Miguel Beer, coached by current Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, to the Reinforced Conference crown via a 4-1 finals victory over Hills Brothers Coffee.
But it was with Shell that Parks would make his mark, suiting up for the franchise from 1988 to 1998 and leading the team to three PBA titles. He finished his PBA career as the all-time leading scorer among imports.
In 1989 Parks was the center of controversy after Shell tried to sign him up as its head coach, a move that drew a strong protest from local coaches. Facing mounting pressure, the Turbochargers eventually had to recall their appointment of Parks.
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Parks teamed with Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc to form a deadly triumvirate. In particular, he and Paras were christened the Paras-Parks Power Punch, and in one game in 1989 the two combined for 101 points, with Parks scoring 51 and Paras 50.
In early 2011 Parks was appointed assistant athletic director of NU and rejoined the San Miguel franchise in the PBA as an assistant coach before taking on the head coaching chores of the conglomerate’s ABL team.
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During his playing days, Parks was a gifted scorer who was quick and athletic and was considered the measuring stick against whom other imports were compared. He was so good that Shell would use him as an import even in conferences where the maximum height for reinforcements was six-foot-five. But aside from his raw talent, Parks was also known for his outstanding work ethic and humble demeanor off the court that made him a fan favorite.
As word of his passing quickly spread, tributes began to pour in for Parks on Twitter from former teammates, opponents and coaches, and even current PBA players who never played against him.The following are just a few of them: