MANILA, Philippines – June Mar Fajardo will always deflect the credit of San Miguel's success to his teammates. But Chris Ross thinks it is the other way around.
The Beermen entered history books on Friday, April 6, as they became the first team in the 43 years of the PBA to win the Philippine Cup championship in 4 straight years and Fajardo stood tall, literally and figuratively.
Fajardo flexed his muscles with a conference-best 42 points on top of 20 rebounds as San Miguel climbed back from a 23-point hole to finish the best-of-7 finals duel against the Magnolia Hotshots in 5 games, 108-99.
It was a performance of the ages and it earned the 28-year-old the Finals Most Valuable Player award, his second in his 6-year PBA career.
While it may be too soon to say for some, Ross thinks Fajardo is in the upper echelon of PBA's elite.
"As I’ve said before, we all benefit from his greatness. He’s in the conversation of probably being the best player ever to play in the PBA and we’re reaping the benefits from it," said Ross.
At the top of the league's Mount Rushmore is Ramon Fernandez, arguably the PBA's greatest player of all time with a record 19 titles.
Fajardo has already matched Fernandez's 4 MVPs and Ross believes El Presidente's number of championships comes next.
"I know that Mon Fernandez is up there with 17 or 18 championships but June Mar is on his way. He’s so humble and he’s on his way," Ross said.
Ross noted that Fajardo, who has won a record 6 Best Player of the Conference awards, can still reach greater individuals heights but it is the Cebuano's selflessness that prevents him from doing so.
And that unselfish nature is what keeps the Beermen intact.
"What makes it work is he’s such a selfless guy. I think he could probably average 30 if he wanted to. But I don’t think it’s in him. He wants to share the limelight and he wants to pass the ball. He doesn’t want it to be all about him," Ross said.
"I’m glad that he’s a leader of our team and I’m glad that I’m able to play with someone as humble and as great as him," he added.
The Beermen go back to the drawing board soon as they gear up for their title defense in the Commissioner's Cup, which kicks off on April 22. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.