Chris Newsome

Chris Newsome Can Finally Call Himself a PBA Champion

World Cup veteran, Asian Games gold medalist, and finally PBA champion. Chris Newsome has had an eventful ten months.

Chris Newsome walked back to the Meralco Bolts bench, his brain still trying to process what he had just seen.

The Bolts were just one defensive stop and 5.6 seconds away from winning their first PBA championship, and all they had to do was prevent the San Miguel Beermen from tying the game with a three-point shot.

Yet somehow, June Mar Fajardo, the least likely player the Beermen would go to, buried an improbable triple even with Newsome challenging him to knot it up.

The Bolts were in shock during the timeout, but active consultant Nenad Vucinic quickly rallied his troops. There were still 3.3 seconds left, plenty of time to get up a decent shot, and Vucinic had just one person in mind to do it.

“Personally, I wanted to get Chris Newsome the last shot,” Vucinic said. “I know he’s been carrying us through the series. Not only him, of course, but he really stepped up, the big pressure was on him. He didn’t have a game up to his standards (Sunday).

“He got really defended well by some of the guards in San Miguel but the last shot had to go to him. That’s his bread-and-butter fadeaway jump shot from the baseline. I’m so happy for him and I’m so happy for all the other players.”

On the next play, Newsome rewarded his coach’s faith in him. He received a pass from Chris Banchero, turned to his left, and buried a baseline jumper to give the Bolts a 2-point lead with 1.3 ticks left. On SMB’s last possession, Fajardo couldn’t replicate his earlier heroics, and the Bolts had their first PBA title.

Minutes later, Newsome was named Finals MVP, capping an eventful 10-month run that saw him play in the FIBA World Cup, win a gold medal at the Asian Games, and hit a championship-winning jumper.

Chris Newsome Finals MVP PBA Philippine Cup
Chris Newsome was named the Finals MVP after the Meralco Bolts secured their first PBA title. (Photo credit: Chris Newsome on Instagram)

“It feels like a dream, but at the same time, I put the work in for this,” Newsome said. “I know I deserve this. I know all the guys in that locker room deserve it as well. I see them come to work every single day.

“It’s nice to finally get that breakthrough championship for Meralco. They’re a world-class organization, and they do everything right. People show up to work.

“They’re good people. Everybody in that locker room is good people. They’re doing the best for their families, for all the people that they care about.”

Two months ago, the chances of the Bolts being just seconds away from their first-ever PBA title were as slim as Anjo Caram outjumping June Mar Fajardo. It was a testament to their determination and iron-clad belief in each other that they overcame hurdle after hurdle.

“I think this was a special one for us because it was one that we honestly didn’t really think we were going to get this one,” Newsome said. “We didn’t even think we were going to get into the playoffs, and here we are. It lets you know that if you continue to work, you continue to believe in what you’re doing, and you have trust in your organization, good things can happen eventually.”

As for the clutch jumper, ‘New’ said he just wasn’t afraid to fail.

“The game-winner, I’ve got to give credit to my teammates and my coaching staff for drawing up that play. My teammates were trusting me to take that shot. It’s a shot that I work on all the time. I put thousands of reps into that shot. For a lot of guys out there, a lot of people out there, it may seem like it’s chamba, but at the same time, that’s something that I work on every day.

“For me and some of the guys in that locker room, it’s no surprise that it went in. Of course, it could have been the opposite as well, but regardless, the story behind it is just to have courage. To have courage to be able to try things, and even if you fail, it’s okay because you can still learn from it and you can continue to grow and it will make you a better person at the end of the day.

“I’ve learned from all my failures. I’ve failed against Ginebra plenty of times in the finals. It’s those failures that allowed me to push and elevate my game and to work on those things that I felt like I needed to work on.

“Sometimes you’re going to fall, but I’m okay with failing because I know that I’m giving my best every single day. That is just going to tell me that I just need to keep on working on some things and just keep on improving myself. Even with this win and this championship, there’s so much more that I can improve on.”

The journey to the top

Chris Newsome’s connection to the Bolts, the only PBA team he has played for, dates back to the early 2010s, when then-Ateneo Blue Eagles coach Norman Black convinced him to try his luck in the UAAP.

While Newsome was serving his residency, though, Black left the Blue Eagles after leading them to a five-peat to return to the PBA.

“Well, a lot of people don’t realize it, but I recruited ‘New’ to go to Ateneo,” Black said. I was their head coach then. I went back to the PBA, so I never got a chance to coach him in college.”

After playing two stellar seasons for the Blue Eagles, he turned pro. This time, Black made sure he would coach his recruit.

“When I got a chance to draft him, I drafted him into the PBA. We’ve been together now probably for eight years, and we hadn’t won a championship even though we’ve been there four times. I’m just so happy for him.”

Black is happy to see his former player shine on the biggest basketball stages over the past few months.

“This has been a great year for him, starting with the Asian Games. Let’s face it, he’s made some big shots this year, and he’s proving to be a clutch player. I’m really happy for him.”

Chris Newsome (right) helped Gilas Pilipinas win the Asian Games gold medal last year. (Photo credit: POC)

As is the case with most players, Newsome’s exposure to international competition made him a better player in the PBA.

“It definitely helped. Going up against the best in the world, it definitely allows you to understand where you are as a player and the skills that you have as a player. These are things that I work on all the time.

“I’m constantly working. I’m sure my guys can tell you that I’m always in the gym, working on my game, on different things. Being on Gilas definitely allowed me to take my confidence to another level.

“It’s nice to just be able to say that I’m competing against the best in the world whenever I get to wear that Pilipinas jersey. That’s something that I’ve always dreamt of, and that’s something that I want from myself, is to go up against the best every chance I get. I’m a natural competitor, so of course I want to see what I’m capable of.”

Newsome, though, won’t have much time to enjoy the view from the PBA mountaintop. He has to immediately report for national team duty again as they begin training camp on Friday for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament to be held in Latvia.

“My work doesn’t stop here. I kind of had that in my head already that even if we win, I still have work to do. I’m still going to show up to the gym tomorrow. I might take a little bit of time off, like a day or two, but other than that, I’ve got to stay in the gym. Keep my game rhythm going while I’m already in shape. I’m already in condition and how my mind is.

“It’s already playoff intensity, so I definitely feel like I’m ready for the Olympic qualifiers. I’m excited to see those guys on Friday.  We even had Dwight (Ramos) in the crowd today. It was nice to see the Gilas guys all around supporting the PBA. I’m excited to get to work.

“We’re going to give ourselves a chance to try to get to the Olympics for the country. It’s going to be really tough.”

What about the power rates?

Winning a PBA title means not just winning one for the team, it also means bringing honor to the company bankrolling it. In this case, the Bolts represent Meralco, the largest private power supplier in the country.

“It’s really special for the guys that have been part of the organization since day one. Even our ball boys, our utility, some of the staff there. This is all for them. Also, the Meralco employees, the guys that are working in the office, all the linemen that are risking their lives to have the power on for us.

“Those are things that go unnoticed. All we have to do is go out there and play and represent them. I’m proud and honored to be able to bring that championship to the Meralco organization and for all the employees of Meralco. I’m just happy that I was able to fulfill my commitment to bring Meralco their first championship.”

The question on everyone’s mind, though, is whether this championship can – however temporarily – translate into a cut in the power rates.

“I’m sure everybody would love that, but that’s unfortunately out of my control,” Newsome said with a laugh. “What I can say is that I’m just happy for all the employees again because those are the guys that are actually working really, really hard to supply that power for the millions of Filipinos around the Philippines. Again, this is for them. As far as the rate goes, I have to pay the same rates.

“Unfortunately, that’s how it goes. It’s summertime, so I know the air con is always on right now, but I’m praying that we can find a nice little middle ground for everyone. Nonetheless, that’s out of my control, and I’m just honored to bring that championship to Meralco.”

Banner images from PBA Media Bureau.

The Bold Plan That Led To The Meralco Bolts’ First PBA Title

Why The Meralco Bolts’ Epic Philippine Cup Title Is One For The Books

Tunnel Vision: The Best Fits From The San Miguel vs. Meralco Philippine Cup Finals