|Height||6 ft 9|
|Born||March 2, 1973 in USA|
|College||Brigham Young Hawaii|
|Drafted||1999 by the Talk 'N Text Phone Pals|
|Other Teams||Talk 'N Text Phone Pals 1999-2007|
Pauliasi "Asi" Taulava (born March 2, 1973) is a 6 ft 9 (2.06 m) and 275 lb (125 kg) Center who is a Filipino-Tongan professional basketball player for the Coca-Cola Tigers in the Philippine Basketball Association. He is also a member of the Philippine national basketball team in international competitions.
Taulava is considered by many to be perhaps the greatest Filipino basketball player to ever play the center position in the PBA. His offensive and defensive post game coupled with his enormous 6'9", 275-pound frame has overwhelmed opposing teams on a consistent basis.
However, Taulava is also one of the most controversial figures in Philippine basketball due to his numerous issues about his citizenship since he arrived in the local basketball scene in 1997.
He is also known for his dyed hair, although he has also shaved his head bald numerous times in the past.
Philippine Basketball League
In 1997 Taulava, a 6 ft 9 inches tall Center from Tonga, along with several Filipino-foreign cagers bannered Blu Detergent in the PBL Vis-Min Cup, where he showed some promise in the said tournament. After participating in the said tournament in 1998, Blu management included Taulava to their roster in the PBL Centennial Cup.
During the said tournament, he emerged as one of the top players in the league, alongside Tanduay rival Eric Menk. The two had a rivalry of sorts when both players matched-up in two games between Blu and Tanduay.
Taulava led the Detergent Kings to the semi-finals but failed to lead his team in the finals.
First PBA Stint
In 1999, Taulava was signed by the then-Mobiline Phone Pals as a direct-hire Fil-am. Taulava became one of the most popular superstars in the PBA while making the Phone Pals a perennial PBA title contender with Andy Seigle and Jeffrey Cariaso on the team.
The Phone Pals raced to a 7-0 start in the All-Filipino before finishing at the top of the standings in the elimination phase. However, Mobiline was eliminated by the 8th-seeded Barangay Ginebra Kings on a last-second shot. Taulava was seen afterwards along the bench crying.
Mobiline suffered early eliminations in the Commissioner's and Governor's Cups while becoming one of the candidates for the Rookie of the Year honors, losing to San Miguel Beer's Danny Seigle.
In 2000, Taulava led Mobiline to a quarterfinals seat in the All-Filipino Cup. However, the Bureau of Immigration ordered Taulava to be deported due to his questionable citizenship papers.
American Basketball Association
After his deportation, Taulava returned to the United States and played for the San Diego Wildfire of the minor league American Basketball Association. Taulava played 22 games for the Wildfire and averaged 6.5 points per game.
Second PBA Stint
In 2001, Taulava returned to the Philippines with new documents to prove his Filipino blood. The Department of Justice approved the new documents Taulava filed and Mobiline put him back on their roster.
Taulava had a decent stint with Mobiline/Talk N Text, but failed to lead the squad to a championship.
In 2002, Taulava was part of the Philippine team in the Busan Asian Games. After leading the country to a fourth-place finish in the Asiad, Taulava returned for Talk N Text but failed to lead the squad past the quarterfinals.
2003 became a fruitful year for Taulava, he led the Phone Pals to the All-Filipino Championship while being named as the Best Player of the Conference. At season's end, he became the first Fil-foreign cager since Great Taste's Ricardo Brown in 1985 to win the Most Valuable Player Award.
In 2004, Taulava, along with teammate Jimmy Alapag, was named as the co-MVP of the All-Star Game held in Cebu City. During the season, the Department of Justice announced that Taulava and five other Fil-foreign cagers have irregular documents, PBA commissioner Noli Eala indefinitely suspended him. A series of controversies rocked during the course of the 2004-2005 season from several TRO hearings in the Regional Trial Court through the Phone Pals playing Taulava in Game 1 of the 2005 PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Barangay Ginebra despite still being under suspension. The Phone Pals wound up winning the game, but was later forfeited by the league for playing an ineligible Taulava.
However, later in the year, the DOJ was able to give Taulava the green light after submitting more documents. The PBA then lifted the suspension in time for Talk N' Text's PBA Fiesta Conference Finals series against San Miguel Beer. Taulava showed some sluggishness during the series as the Phone Pals lost in five games.
During the 2005 offseason, Taulava played for Team Pilipinas in the William Jones Cup and the Brunei Cup tournaments.
In 2006, Taulava was named MVP of the All-Star Game held in Cagayan de Oro City as he led the South All-Stars to a 122-120 win over the North All-Stars.
This past season was one filled with ups and downs for the Phone Pals' main man. Averaged a league-best 20.2 ppg (the only local to average more than 20 points per game for the season) and 11.1 rpg despite playing only 34 games. Also led the league in turnovers with 3.4 tpg. Sat out most of the season due to his citizenship problems that led to a legal battle between the Phone Pals and the PBA before he was reinstated in the last Fiesta Conference finals. The 2003 MVP, he also made it as a last-minute entry to the RP team in the Jones Cup shortly after he was reinstated. Improved his free throw shooting by hitting 67 per cent of his foul shots this past season.
Philippine National Team
In 2002, Taulava played for Team Philippines in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, Korea. Taulava showed promise during the said tournament in the center position while also had a hard time on guarding Chinese center Yao Ming. In the end, the Philippines went home without a medal after suffering a harsh defeat in the semifinals against host Korea and lost in the bronze medal match against Kazakhstan.
In 2005, Taulava was added in the Team Pilipinas Training Pool of Chot Reyes. He was part of the country's third-place finish in the William Jones Cup tournament behind Passing Lane Sports USA and host Chinese Taipei. Taulava also led Team Pilipinas to the championship of the 5th Brunei Sultan Cup.
In 2006, Taulava participated in the team's 110-102 victory over a Dennis Rodman-led American team on May 1.
In 2007, Taulava participated again this time in the Team Pilipinas in FIBA Asia Championship in Japan. despite his tremendous showing at the center position, team pilipinas failed to pass the preliminary round which considered as the "group of death" losing to eventual champion Iran and Jordan and winning only one game against China's B-Team.
Taulava's citizenship has been questioned ever since he arrived in the PBL in 1998. A government scrunity from 1999-2000 about the alleged number of fake Fil-foreign cagers led to his deportation in April 2000.
While Taulava proved his citizenship when he returned to the country in 2001. Three years later, his name became a subject of DOJ's scrunity on the said issue that led to his indefinite suspension in the PBA.
It is claimed that Taulava's mother, Pauline Hernandez Mateeaki, was born in the Samar Province. However, the documents are said to be inaccurate. Some reports even claim Hernandez was born in Tonga.
While Taulava is now cleared by the Justice Department, it remains to be seen if his citizenship will be questioned again in the near future.