PJ Simon to retire as inspiration to unheralded players
MANILA, Philippines – Given how long and productive Peter June Simon's PBA career turned out, it is surprising that he was drafted way too low in the fifth round as the 43rd overall pick.
In retrospect, though, Simon figured why he had to take the unorthodox way to PBA stardom: to give overlooked players like him inspiration to just keep fighting.
Truly, the sweet-shooting guard is a prime example that hope is not lost for late draftees, as proven by his 16-season tenure in the league and 8 PBA championships, including a rare Grand Slam in 2014.
"Sometimes, I think about why I struggled in my first two, three years in the league and I feel that's what I'm leaving behind – to be an inspiration to the players who don't play as much," Simon said in Filipino.
"There were times when I wanted to give up but I pushed through. That's probably the legacy that I'll leave."
Simon was drafted in the PBA in 2001 but decided to spend time in the Metropolitan Basketball Association and Philippine Basketball League before eventually joining Purefoods in 2004.
His first two years in the PBA, though, saw Simon play limited minutes and average single digit in scoring.
But Simon soon established his place in the team, carving out a role as an off-the-bench scorer who torched the opposing defense with his vaunted shooting and creativity of making space.
His best season came in 2014 when he helped San Mig Coffee sweep all 3 PBA titles and earned himself a spot in the Second Mythical Team.
"I hope those who go undrafted don't lose hope. I hope they don't give up because if I can do it, for sure they can as well," Simon said.
After more than a decade in the PBA, the 39-year-old has decided to call it a career as he suits up for one last conference before hanging up his jersey.
"I think it's probably time. This is also for the next generation of players. I already did my part. It's sad because I feel that I can still play, but I think this is the right time," Simon said of his retirement.
Although he has taken a back seat in the last couple of years with Magnolia acquiring several young guards in Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon, and Chris Banchero, Simon will still end his career with a bang.
In his next Manila Clasico game against Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Cup, Simon will witness his jersey retired by Magnolia.
Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, and Rey Evangelista are the only other players from the historic franchise to have their jerseys retired.
"I'm touched, but at the same time, there are mixed emotions. It's touching but I also feel sad because I'll miss playing," Simon said.
His jersey retirement, however, will have to wait as the PBA suspended its season indefinitely due to the coronavirus crisis in the country.
But when the league returns to action, Simon wants nothing but a third straight trip to the All-Filipino finals and to walk away from the PBA with another crown.
"This is the conference I chose to retire because I know we have a chance to reach the finals again. Hopefully, we'll get there," Simon said. – Rappler.com