Paul Lee finally vindicated his blockbuster transfer to Magnolia two years ago by handing the franchise its first title in four years.
Lee took the place of two-time league MVP James Yap and for a while it seemed like Magnolia made a blunder setting up the trade.
“Siyempre mabigat yun. Lahat ng tao yun ang tinitignan simula nung na-trade ako dito kapalit si kuya James (Yap). Yung ang tinitingnan ng mga tao kung makakapag-champion ako dito sa Purefoods franchise,” said Lee.
Lee erased all the doubts by giving the Hotshots a special gift less than two weeks before Christmas in the form of a title as the team beat the Alaska Aces to annex the 2018 PBA Governors Cup championship.
Lee sank the game-winning basket which allowed Magnolia to post 79-78, Game 5 victory.
The 29-year-old guard from Tondo also led all local scorers with 16 points, including nine in the final quarter, during the title-clinching victory, 102-86, in Game 6 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
He inexplicably lost to Mark Barroca in the PBA Press Corps-Honda Philippines Finals MVP honor. But he probably doesn’t mind. After all he not only won a championship but the Best Player of the Conference award as well.
Lee admitted it wasn’t easy filling in the void left by Yap early on. Yap was the acknowledged face of the team and delivered seven championships for the ballclub including a grand slam in 2014.
But Lee said he couldn’t take the credit for the title which was the result of the collective effort of the Hotshots.
“Lahat naman tulung-tulong kami,” he said. “Sinabi ko sa mga unang magtsa-champion like sila Jio na tulung-tulong lang, maglaro tayo sa bawat isa. Maganda naman nag-respond sila ng maayos.
Lee was picked second overall by Rain or Shine during the 2011 PBA draft behind Jvee Casio who was selected by the then Coca-Cola Tigers. He was awarded Rookie of the Year and won his first ever PBA championship with the Elasto Painters, though he did not play in the championship series due to injury.
On October 13, 2016, Lee was sent to Hotshots on a blockbuster trade in exchange for Yap. It was one of the most talked-about trades in years and elicited shocked reactions from basketball fans.
Lee said he’s been blessed this year since aside for winning his first title with Magnolia, 2018 saw the birth of his first baby, Tokyo.
“Wala na akong mahihiling pa. Napakagandang taon ito para sa akin. I’m very happy,” he said.
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