The former Barangay Ginebra import in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) whose injury paved the way for the arrival of Justin Brownlee seven years ago expressed no ill feelings toward the trajectories their respective careers have taken.
In fact, Paul Harris is more than proud of how Brownlee has made a mark on Philippine basketball, especially after the Gin Kings’ resident import turned in his greatest performance ever by leading the Team Philippines to its first Asian Games (Asiad) gold since 1962.
“Seeing Justin lead the Philippines to gold in the Asian Games brings immense joy. Much respect and blessings to you, Justin!” Harris said in an Instagram post after Brownlee carried Gilas Pilipinas to the Asiad gold.
Harris had his share of success in the PBA when he won championships and a Best Import plum during his time with TNT in the early 2010s.
But July 2016 saw Harris playing just one game for Ginebra in the Governors’ Cup after hurting his finger during the third quarter against GlobalPort, prompting coach Tim Cone to search for a replacement.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I was in the best shape of my life, I had a great preseason, aiming for a championship,” Harris said on his social media post. “First game, a freak accident almost cost me my thumb. Grateful to the Filipino doctors, especially remembering [late player agent Sheryl Reyes].”
Harris recalled that Reyes and Cone, who had scouted Brownlee in the past, asked for Harris’ recommendation if the fellow Syracuse Orange alumnus is someone who could fit the bill.
“She and coach Tim Cone asked about [Brownlee]. Nobody really knew that Justin was my former teammate in the D-League [and] vouched for him—good character, a perfect fit.
“Some say I brought Justin to the Philippines, but that’s not true. God brought Justin to the Philippines.
He helped Ginebra clinch its first championship in 2016 in years and went on to win many more more championships. That’s a testament to his hard work and dedication,” added Harris.
Harris eventually returned to the country in 2021, playing a few games as Phoenix’s import in the Governors’ Cup. He even played against Brownlee and Ginebra in one of the games which the Fuel Masters nearly won in regulation, but lost in overtime.
Brownlee has won six PBA titles, plus another one in the Asean Basketball League with Alab Pilipinas in 2018. But those pale in comparison to the biggest win of all—the Asian Games gold.
The situation could be comparable to the one that happened in baseball back in the very old days when an injury by a New York Yankees player named Wally Pipp opened the door for Lou Gehrig to launch a legendary career.
But Harris has no reason to be bitter. In fact, he’s more elated to see Brownlee reap the fruits of his labor.
“What makes me proud is Justin’s off-court demeanor, his love for the Filipino fans, the community, and most importantly the country,” he said.
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“Many players overlook the importance of adjusting to the country you’re in, but Justin excelled at it quickly. I have seen many players over the years come to other countries to play basketball and they average 40 and 50 points, but don’t last or win because sometimes it gets to their head.”