PBA: Magnolia's PJ Simon leaving franchise in good hands

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 03:30 PM

Magnolia’s PJ Simon (8) plans to retire at the end of the PBA season. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines -- Magnolia guard Peter June Simon is at peace with his decision to retire at the end of this PBA season, knowing he is leaving his beloved team in good hands.

Simon, 39, is set to hang up his jersey after 17 seasons with the Purefoods franchise. He will retire as an eight-time All-Star and an eight-time champion, and as one of the most loved players the team has ever had. 

Indeed, so important is Simon to the team that they will honor him by retiring his No. 8 jersey, making him only the second Purefoods player to have his number retired after Alvin Patrimonio.

"Nakaka-flatter," Simon said of the team's gesture. "Kay Alvin Patrimonio lang nila ginawa 'yun. Sobrang thankful ako doon sa management, sa franchise ng Purefoods."

His decision to retire was not an easy one, said Simon, especially as he still feels he can contribute. In Magnolia's first -- and so far only -- game of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, Simon had four points in 11 minutes off the bench in a 94-78 defeat to San Miguel Beer.

Yet after 17 years, Simon knows it is time for him to step away from the PBA.

"Napakahirap," he said, "But 'yun, siguro, it's time na."

"Nagawa ko na rin 'yung part ko," he added. "Nakakalungkot, dahil parang feeling ko, parang gusto ko pa, kaya ko pa. But sa tingin ko, eto na 'yung time."

Simon's retirement, he said, is also for the "next generation." Even as he leaves the only PBA team he has ever played for, he knows that they have several guards who can fill in his shoes.

"Ang dami naming mga guards, at ang gagaling nila lahat," said Simon, who counts among his teammates Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, and Jio Jalalon. "Kaya ko na rin naisip, dahil ito na rin 'yung time nila."

There are still some things that he hopes to accomplish on the court. The PBA season remains suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but if and when it resumes, Simon's focus is squarely on a championship.

The Hotshots reached the finals of the All-Filipino Cup in back-to-back seasons, each time succumbing to San Miguel Beer. They came closer than ever to dethroning the Beermen last year, losing in a heartbreaking seven-game series. 

Simon believes that this season, they can break through.

"Sana, makakuha kami ng championship. Kasi twice kami nag-finals ng All-Filipino eh. So, kaya naniniwala ako ngayon, kaya ito 'yung pinili ko na mag-retire sa conference na 'to, dahil alam ko may chance eh," he said.

"Alam ko may chance na mag-finals ulit, so hopefully 'yun, sana makaabot ulit kami doon."

Whether he retires with a ninth championship or not, Simon's legacy in the PBA is secure. His story is well-known: left unsigned after being the 43rd overall selection in the 2001 PBA Rookie Draft, Simon competed instead in the Metropolitan Basketball League and the Philippine Basketball League.

He eventually joined Purefoods in 2004, but it still took some time before he became a regular contributor to the franchise. Since then, however, Simon has become one of the team's cornerstones and among the finest sixth men in the league.

"Doon sa mga bench player at saka 'yung mga hindi na-draft, huwag lang sila mawalan ng pag-asa," Simon said. "'Yun talaga 'yung nangyari sa akin. There are times na parang gusto ko nang gumive up, but sige lang."

"'Yun siguro 'yung legacy na maiiwan ako," he added. "Kaya minsan naiisip ko kung bakit ako nag-struggle noong first two years ko, three years, dahil parang, feeling ko 'yun pala 'yung maiiwan ko rin."

"Magiging inspiration ako doon sa mga hindi nakakalaro masyado. Hopefully doon sa mga hindi na-draft, hindi sila mawalan nag pag-asa. Huwag silang gumive up, dahil kung nakaya ko, for sure makakaya din nila."

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