Venancio “Benjie” Johnson Paras, Jr. (born October 2, 1968) is a Filipino actor and a former basketball player of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). He is the only PBA player to win both Rookie of the Year (ROY) and Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors, in a single season (1989). As its star Forward-Center, Paras led the Shell Turbo Chargers to championship titles.
(UP) A prized recruit from San Beda High School, Paras started as center for University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, where he once scored 19 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and blocked seven shots against rival Far Eastern University. The prized UP player had all the basketball essentials in him– agility, rebounding strength, and shooting touch. Eventually, the Maroons went on to win its second UAAP title against the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors led by Jerry Codiñera.
The Rookie from UP
Drafted by the Shell Turbo Chargers in 1989, Paras, aptly nicknamed- “The Tower of Power”, electrified the PBA with excellent ball-handling, powerful rebounding, deft mid-range shooting, well-timed shot blocks and the uncanny ability for inside scoring. Although his team did not win any title that season, these outstanding abilities overshadowed even the most skilled of players and because of these he not only took Rookie of the Year, but also became its Most Valuable Player. Benjie Paras was the only PBA player to have done this feat.
Paras as Turbo Charger
In 1990 (The Open Conference) Paras would lead Shell to their first title since entering the league by beating Anejo Rhum in a championship series that finished in 6 games, the climax featured a walk out by Anejo players. A year(1991) later Shell and Ginebra would meet again in the Finals (Reinforced Conference), Paras and the Tubro Chargers seemed poised to beat the Gins once again after taking a commanding 3-1 lead, but the Gins made a dramatic rally and coming back from the 3-1 deficit and winning the title in a classic Game 7 encounter that featured Rudy Distrito‘s game winner.
Paras was also selected to play in the 1990 Asian games Basketball Team that won the Silver Medal, coming up short against China in the Finals/Gold Medal match.
In 1992, Paras and the rejuvenated Turbo Chargers now with Leo Isaac, and Rey Cuenco led Shell to another title, winning it over the San Miguel Beermen. After 1992 title, Paras and Shell would show inconsistencies as it flirted to the cellars in several occasions. But Paras managed to earn a trip back to the Finals (Commissioner’s Cup), thanks in part to import Kenny Redfield and supporting casts Peter Naron, Richie Ticzon, Victor Pablo, Jojo Lim etc. in 1996 and battled the grandslam seeking Alaska Aces, then known as the Alaska Milkmen in an unbelievable 7 Game series which Alaska won. Paras was also a contender to win the MVP in the 96 season of the PBA.
Paras would then re-enter the Finals 2 years later in the Centennial Cup Finals this time meeting the Talk N Text Phone Pals then known as Mobiline Phone Pals, in a one game title showdown, Shell came up short. Paras would get his revenge thanks to the help of Noy Castillo and Gerald Esplana as the rematch was set for The Governor’s Cup Finals of the PBA against Mobiline. Shell came back after trailing the series 3 games to 2. Shell and Mobiline battled into a gruelling 7 games until Shell prevailed due to timely baskets by Paras and Esplana.
In 1999, Paras dominated the Filipino-Americans(Fil-Am) laden PBA by leading Shell to another Finals appearance this time against Tanduay Rhum Makers bannered by Fil-Am Eric Menk and the deported Sonny Alvarado. Paras held his own against the two taller, stronger and more athletic Fil-Ams as he led Shell to another title winning it 4-2. That would be Parás’ last title, as his team was unable to stop the San Miguel Beermen in the title showdown for the Commissioner’s Cup. Paras would win his 2nd MVP since 1989.
For his last three years, injuries plagued his playing career and it was so bad he only saw action in 44 games from 2000 to 2002. Before the opening of 2003 season, Paras, at 34, has finally called it quits.
Paras played in a total of 574 games in his career. Not counting the 2002 campaign, he collected 10,322 points, 4,402 rebounds, 1,822 assists, 1,323 blocks and 221 steals.
- 2-time Most Valuable Player (1989 & 1999)
- Rookie of the Year (1989)
- 5-time Mythical First Team Selection (1989, 1990, 1991, 1995 & 1999)
- 3-time Mythical Second Team Selection (1992, 1994 & 1996)
- Best Player of the Conference (1999 Commissioner’s Cup)
- Comeback Player of the Year (1999)
- Eight-time PBA All-Star
- 2-time PBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (1994 & 1999)
- PBA’s 25 Greatest Players of All-Time
Other Basketball Highlights:
- A Member of the 1990 Asian Games national team (Silver Medal)
- He is also an actor
Paras retired in 2003, ending his 14-year career with the Philippine Basketball Association. However, he returned later in the year, suiting up for San Miguel Beer before calling it quits once again at season’s end. He is currently an actor in show business.
He has performed in local films and television shows. He currently appears in Lagot Ka, Isusumbong Kita, a weekly sitcom by GMA Network and also starred in Encantadia, as the Ascano barbarian, Wahid. He is also the host of ABC 5′s local version of Guinness Book of Records.
Paras is separated from his wife, the former actress Jackie Forster.