Justin Brownlee

‘The NBA Missed Out On This Guy’: Tim Cone Gives Justin Brownlee Ultimate Compliment

Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone still can’t believe that Justin Brownlee never got a call-up from the NBA.

Tim Cone and Justin Brownlee have been together for nearly eight years, a partnership that has produced six PBA championships and one Asian Games gold medal. Brownlee became a naturalized Filipino in 2022, and has since represented the country in the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, and FIBA qualifiers.

Now, Cone and Brownlee are teaming up again in pursuit of a prize that has eluded the Philippines for 52 years: a berth in the Olympic Games.

Gilas Pilipinas are now just two wins away from achieving that feat, and Brownlee has been a big part of the team’s surprising run in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

During the press conference following Gilas’ close 96-94 loss to Georgia that nonetheless assured them of passage to the semifinals where they will face World No. 12 Brazil on Saturday, Cone found himself in a familiar spot: answering questions about Brownlee’s big plays and overall character.

“I have said so much about this guy in so many interviews through the last eight years,” Cone said after Brownlee put up 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. “And I always embarrass him. He’s blushing. You don’t know it, but he’s blushing.

“He’s a big moment guy. He plays huge in big moments. And he’s proven that over and over again.

“And what he’s doing here in this tournament is no surprise whatsoever to what we’ve seen throughout his career in the Philippines. I mean, he’s dominant there. He executes to a T. And he’s always engaged. And when he’s aggressive, there’s just nobody better than him.”

Then Cone took his praise to another level, echoing something he has been saying for years.

“And somebody, I’ve said this before, somebody in the NBA missed out on this guy. Somebody in the NBA missed out. They weren’t on the ball. They should have seen this guy. He never should have been in the Philippines.”

“He should have been in the NBA.”

Tim Cone was all praises for Justin Brownlee. (Photo from FIBA)

Brownlee went undrafted in the 2011 NBA Draft and never got to play a single regular season NBA game. The closest he got was an appearance in the NBA Summer League. At 36, it’s not likely he’ll ever get an NBA call-up, but that’s just fine, because he’s already beloved in the Philippines.

Even his teammates revere him. Kai Sotto called him “the Michael Jordan of the Philippines,” while Dwight Ramos described him as the best teammate he ever had.

Brownlee, who is also one of the humblest imports ever, deflected the praise.

“Oh, man, I really appreciate the compliment from both guys,” he said. “But I really don’t know how I feel about that. With Dwight, I always pride myself as being a really good teammate.

“I try to gel with the guys, you know, try to get guys going and try to play off of guys as well as try to get them playing off me as well. So, I definitely appreciate the compliments from both guys. And Kai, being compared to Michael Jordan of the Philippines, I don’t even know what to say about that.

“But I definitely appreciate the compliment. And I would be nothing without my teammates. A famous quote that Coach Tim always tells the Ginebra guys, and now on the Gilas team, is ‘One is too small of a number to achieve greatness.’

“So, I just try to go by that and try to get the best out of the team and try to put my best to the team.”

Cone chimed in about Brownlee’s effect on his teammates.

“The thing that really makes Justin special is, number one, he’s absolutely the best teammate I’ve ever seen throughout my coaching. He’s just a tremendous teammate. And number two, he has that rare skill that every time he plays, in any team he plays, he makes the players around him better.

“They play at a higher level wherever Justin goes. I used to think I was a really good coach because I had him all the time, and I’d go, ‘Wow, I’m a really good coach.’ And then he goes to other teams and he still wins everywhere he goes.”

“So, obviously, it’s not me, it’s really him because he just wins everywhere. Any country he goes to, they win championships. It’s amazing. And that’s because he knows how to make people better around him.”

Banner Image from FIBA.  

Olympic Dream Lives On: Gilas Pilipinas Advance to OQT Semis Despite Loss

‘We’re Gonna Live and Die With This’: Tim Cone’s Faith In The Triangle Pays Off Against Latvia 

A Win For The Ages: Gilas Pilipinas Shock World No. 6 Latvia in FIBA OQT