ASI Taulava was supposed to be June Mar Fajardo's biggest contender for the MVP award, but there was no doubt in his mind who deserved it.
“No doubt, June Mar deserved the award. I have no question about it. He won the BPC in the all-Filipino, his team is consistently making the playoffs, those are the ingredients to it,” said the 41-year-old MVP nominee.
Taulava, who became the oldest member of the Mythical Team, sought out Fajardo after the Leo Awards to personally congratulate him and give his words of wisdom to what he calls as "the next big thing in the PBA."
“I told June Mar, ‘You’re in it, boy. You are now in the league of the top players in this league. I hope you continue working hard and never relax’. The guy listened,” he said.
“I also described to him my regrets wherein I failed to capitalize on my strengths when I was young. I told him: ‘I can see my young self in you. You have a very bright career ahead. Keep your eyes on the road’,” said Taulava, who is open about not taking care of his body when he was young.
The 2003 MVP said he believed that Fajardo is bound to become one of the greatest players in the history of the PBA owing to an admirable skills set unique for a Filipino his size.
“June Mar should become one of the best players this country will ever produce. He is quick, he has the shooting, he has the body, the basketball IQ and most of all he is still young. Imagine him 10 years from now,” said Taulava.
“So that’s what I told him, always keep his eyes on the prize. He can perhaps one day see himself flaunting not just one, not just two but four or maybe more of that MVP trophy,” he added.
Asked about his own failure to bag a second plum, Taulava said: “I’ll even work harder next year. I’d be more tenacious in training and disciplining myself.”
“But like I said, I don’t sulk about not winning it. I am just happy to make myself an inspiration to the younger guys. I just want them to see me as a person who not only defies time, but someone who is ready to prove all my doubters wrong, day in and day out,” he said.
“And yeah, I’d try to aim for the rare honor of making myself the oldest to grab that (MVP) award,” said ageless center said as he walked to the parking lot, clutching his Mythical Team trophy on one hand.