PJ Simon retires from basketball
By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
PBA player PJ Simon (From his Facebook page)
MANILA (Philippines News Agency)– Magnolia guard PJ Simon announced his retirement from basketball in a lengthy social media post on Wednesday.
“This is PJ Simon, The SuperSub, Your Scoring Apostle, signing out,” the 40-year-old star said.
On why he is calling it a career after 19 years that go all the way back to the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA), Simon said, “It’s time to focus on my family. My wife is pregnant and gusto ko magkasama kami (I want us to be together) as we start a family.”
He added that his situation in Davao amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic factored in making the decision.
“Kinailangan kong umuwi ng Davao nung nagkasakit at namatay ang father ko at nahirapan na rin akong makabalik dahil sa pandemya. Sign na rin siguro yun na ito na yung tamang time para magretiro (I had to fly back to Davao when my father got sick and eventually died, and I had a difficult time returning due to the pandemic. It may be a sign that it is the right time to retire),” Simon said.
From ‘overlooked’ to legend
He said he was surprised by what his career has gone through all these years.
“Hindi ko inakala na pagkatapos hindi mapansin nung 2001 PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Rookie Draft na posible pa pala mag-iwan ng sarili kong marka sa liga (I never thought that after I was overlooked in the 2001 PBA Rookie Draft, it would still be possible for me to leave a mark in the league),” Simon said.
He was selected in the fifth round of the 2001 Draft but Sta. Lucia, the team that selected him, did not sign him to a contract, leaving him as a free agent.
Simon eventually found himself joining the Davao Eagles in the 2001 MBA season, where he became their focal point of offense.
His stint with Davao ended right when the MBA met its demise in 2002 but Hapee, then a powerhouse team in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL), recruited him afterward.
Simon instantly became a key player in Hapee’s offense and he developed an individual mini-rivalry with Welcoat’s star, James Yap.
However, in 2004, Magnolia acquired both Simon and Yap through free agency and the draft, respectively, and they became the team’s 1-2 punch in the offense.
Behind Simon, Yap, and defensive ace Marc Pingris, the Purefoods franchise won seven championships from 2006 to 2014, capped by a grand slam.
Even after Yap was essentially shipped back to the Welcoat franchise, now known in the PBA as Rain Or Shine in a trade for Paul Lee, Simon would still win a title for Magnolia, ruling the 2018 Governors’ Cup.
“Binigay ko yung 17 years ng buhay ko sa PBA, sa Magnolia Hotshots, at sa lahat ng fans (I gave 17 years of my life to the PBA, the Magnolia Hotshots, and all the fans),” added Simon, who played with the Purefoods franchise throughout his illustrious career that is also highlighted by eight All-Star Game appearances, the 2008 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award, and being a member of the 2014 Mythical Second Team.
He thanked San Miguel big boss, Ramon S. Ang, for giving him the opportunity in sports and business, and his coaches, teammates, and fans in the 17 years he played basketball.
Jersey retirement up
Before the start of the season, the Hotshots’ management said Simon’s number eight jersey would be retired, becoming the fourth Purefoods player to have his jersey lifted to the rafters.
Reacting to the jersey retirement plan, Simon, in an interview on March 8 following the franchise’s season opener against sister team San Miguel, said, “Sobrang honored ako na yun yung gagawin sa akin ng Purefoods (I am so honored that Purefoods would do that for me).”
With his jersey set to be retired, he will join an elite list that includes Alvin Patrimonio, who is currently the club’s team manager, Jerry Codiñera, and Rey Evangelista.
They were key players in the Hotshots’ dominance during the ‘90s.
Except for Codiñera, who still got to play for the TNT franchise, then known as Mobiline, and FedEx later on, Patrimonio and Evangelista, like Simon, played their entire careers with the Purefoods franchise.
“Nakakatuwa kasi isang team lang kami (I was very happy because we only played with one team),” Simon said about joining Patrimonio and Evangelista in the retired jerseys list.
Simon still got to play in the season opener, making four points in 11-and-a-half minutes off the bench but the Hotshots fell to the Beermen, 78-94.
The Magnolia management initially set Simon’s jersey retirement on May 10, when the team was to take on Ginebra in the latest chapter of the “Manila Clasico”, but the pandemic forced the postponement of the season and, in effect, the retirement ceremony. (PNA)