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James Yap surprised with fan reactions to jersey number switch

Needless to say, fans might take some time to get used to seeing James Yap wear a different number than 18 for the first time since 2004. PBA Images
By Ivan Saldajeno

ANTIPOLO—In a manner probably similar to how Michael Jordan has become synonymous with the number 23 even if he wore jersey numbers 12 and 45 at some points for the Chicago Bulls, fans of James Yap think that he will forever be associated with jersey number 18.

Yap admitted on Wednesday night that the fan's reactions to his decision to wear a different jersey number when he signed a one-year deal with Blackwater caught him by surprise.

"Noong pinost ko sa Instagram ko na number 15 na ako, ang daming parang umiyak at nalungkot. Ganun pala yung impact ng number 18. Ngayon ko lang na-realize. Sa totoo lang, di ko naisip yun," Yap said after his first game as a Bossing at the start of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center.

Ever since he committed to the University of the East for college, the Escalante native, now a concurrent councilor in San Juan City, has been wearing number 18, all the more when he turned pro with Magnolia drafting him second overall in the 2004 PBA Draft.

Before the said draft, Yap played for the Rain Or Shine franchise when it was still in the PBL as Welcoat, wearing jersey number 1, but he wore his usual number 18 kit when he rejoined the team in the PBA.

James Yap keeping jersey #15

Meanwhile, Yap reiterated that he will keep jersey number 15 out of respect for Troy Rosario, who like him has been wearing jersey number 18 since his amateur days.

"Sabi ko, 'Sige, sa'yo na lang yan. Ako, 15 na lang kasi birthday ko naman eh,'" Yap, who turned 42 last Feb. 15, recalled how his conversation with Rosario went.

Yap then revealed that James Sena did not hesitate to let go of his number 15 jersey when Yap asked him to use the said number.

"Ka-bike ko si James. Sabi ko, 'Akin na yang number 15 mo ah.' 'Oo, sa'yong-sa'yo na yan,'" Yap bared his chat with Sena, adding that Sena, who will turn 36 this Aug. 31, chose number 31 because it is his birthday.

Even if his supposed Blackwater debut was moved to the Ynares Center here on a Wednesday when it was initially scheduled for a Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the team's game against Meralco still drew a good pro-Blackwater crowd that their cheers were heard louder than those of Meralco.

In the end, the Bossing gave Yap his first win with his new club through a 96-93 stunner against the Bolts.

Yap finished with five points and one rebound in almost 13 minutes of action off the bench.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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