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Basketball great Loyzaga dies at 85

Carlos Loyzaga, the man considered as the greatest Filipino to play basketball and whose moniker “The Great Difference” epitomized his role and impact as the player who can do it all, died yesterday. He was 85.

His son, former PBA player Chito Loyzaga, said the elder Loyzaga died of cardiac arrest after being hospitalized for almost two weeks at the Cardinal Santos Hospital due to pneumonia.

The family was expecting him to be discharged when he passed away unexpectedly.

The iconic basketball player who lifted the Philippines to unprecedented heights in international basketball, including a third place finish in the 1954 FIBA World Championship, had been in failing health for years.

“His basketball accomplishments were well-known, but most people don’t know that he was a lovely husband, a good father and a good friend. He lived a good life and played for flag and country with a passion,” Chito said, adding that the public viewing of Caloy’s wake will start this morning at the Arlington Memorial Chapel.

Besides being “The Great Difference,” he was also nicknamed “King Caloy,” a tribute to his lording it over Philippine basketball which ever uniform he wore.

“For a star player, I don’t remember that he figured in any controversy,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. yesterday after learning of Caloy’s death.

Former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde, whose company in the 1950s was where Loyzaga played, echoed Cojuangco’s sentiments about the 6-foot-3 legend.

“At that time he was really the big difference because he stood head and shoulders over most of his teammates,” said Elizalde, whose family owned YCO Paints in the MICAA.

“He was a very good person and he will never be forgotten,” said Elizalde.

After being discovered in a basketball lot in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Loyzaga went on to become the toast of the basketball-crazy Filipinos. He first made his mark while playing for San Beda where he led the Red Lions to two straight NCAA championships in 1951 and 1952, and a third one came in 1955.

Such was Loyzaga’s incredible skill as a player that while in college, he led the Philippines in the 1952 Olympics.