Brother gave MVP Fajardo's hoops dream a wakeup call
MANILA, Philippines – It’s hard to imagine that the best basketball player in the Philippines today - and someone who may go down as one of the most unstoppable forces to ever grace the PBA - only started seriously playing competitive basketball in college.
Most professional basketball stars begin their path towards stardom at a young age. From playing barefoot on the concrete floors of the Philippines to competing in inter-barangay tournaments, the game of hoops is usually a staple from the get-go for aspiring kids.
But that wasn’t the case for now two-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, who, once upon a time, had to be persuaded by his little brother to play the game despite his obvious gifted height.
“Dalawa lang kami. Siya yung bunso. Every morning, nung grade school ako, nung high school ako, every morning, siya yung gumigising saakin eh,” Fajardo, reminiscing about his past, told the media moments after standing at a podium, being recognized as the best player the PBA has to offer with MVP trophy at hand.
(We’re just two sons. He’s the younger one. Every morning when I was in grad school, when I was in high school, every morning, he was the one who was waking me up.)
“Siya yung yumayaya saakin mag basketball. Hindi naman ako mahilig sa basketball. College lang ako nag basketball. So ako nabigyan nang height tapos siya, hindi na siya tumangkad.”
(He was the one asking me to play basketball. I wasn’t into the game. I just started playing basketball really in college. I was able to grow taller, and he didn’t.)
Fajardo was 6-foot-3 at that time. He’s now 6-foot-11. His brother, Jay, stopped growing at 5-foot-6.
Jay might have been the one who first had dreams of becoming big through basketball, but it was his brother who wound up realizing them.
On Friday, July 17, in front of thousands of San Miguel Beermen fans and many other spectators, Fajardo joined an exclusive and elite club.
He became the first player since his mentor, Danny Ildefonso, from 2000-2001, to win back-to-back PBA MVP awards. The only other two people to accomplish the feat? Bogs Adornado and Alvin Patrimonio, two bonafide legends of the game.
“Syempre, sobrang blessed ko lang na napabilang ako sa mga players na naka back to back MVPs,” said Fajardo, who’s one win away against the Alaska Aces in the Governors’ Cup Finals from winning his second career championship.
(Of course, I’m very blessed to be included in the list of players who have won back-to-back MVPs)
The laurel adds another trophy to his already impressive mantle, which includes this season’s PBA Sportsmanship Award, two PBA Mythical First Team awards, a Mythical Second Team awards, two All-Defensive Team awards, 3 Best Player of the Conference awards, and a Most Improved Player of the Year award.
For a 25-year-old talent only in his third year in the league, that’s already quite a number of accomplishments. And health permitting, he's likely to add many more achievements over the coming years.
“Unang una sa lahat, nagpapasalamat ako kay God,” Fajardo said at the podium, right after being named MVP on Friday. “Sa mga blessings sa mga binigay niya saakin. Sa pamilya ko.”
(First of all, I wanna thank God. For all the blessings he has given me. For my family.)
“Syempre, sa lahat rin sa PBA, maraming salamat. Salamat sa mga governors, sa media, sa mga players. Salamat din sa mga fans nang San Miguel. Sa fans nang PBA, salamat.”
(Of course, thanks also to everyone in the PBA. Thanks to the governors, to the media, to the players. Thanks as well to the fans of San Miguel. To the fans of the PBA, thank you.)
His ascension towards the top of the list of greatest PBA players ever has been quick and very intriguing to watch. San Miguel’s opponents know that, entering each game they play against the Beermen, they’re automatically at a disadvantage due to Fajardo’s presence.
His dominance in the paint is well-regarded. His improving jumper makes him scarier by the day. His commitment to defense makes finding holes in his game very difficult.
What makes the Cebu native even more deadly? His willingness to do whatever it takes to put his team first.
When asked about his thoughts on winning MVP during a press conference on Friday, these words came out of the MVP’s mouth:
“Mas maganda to pag nanalo kami [nang championship].”
(It would be better if we win the championship.)
Nonetheless, he’s still aware of the feat he’s reached, and he’s not taking it for granted.
“Hindi sa lahat nang season, mabibigay [ang MVP],” said Fajardo.
(The MVP award won’t be given every season.)
“So yun, kailangan ko i-cherish yung moment na ito.”
(So that’s why this moment should be cherished.)