THE 45th season of the PBA began last March 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the Annual Leo Awards, where San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo won an unprecedented sixth straight MVP award.
Fajardo, who received his MVP trophy while on a motorized wheelchair after fracturing his right tibia in preseason practice that will likely keep him out for the entire upcoming season, won six MVPs in a row right after losing out to Calvin Abueva, then with Alaska, for Rookie of the Year honors in 2013.
The 6-10 Cebuano is now two MVP trophies clear of Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio who previously had the most number of MVP awards in the league with four apiece.
There are already those who have already proclaimed Fajardo as the PBA’s GOAT, or greatest of all-time, because of his six MVPs.
But is the number of MVP awards the sole basis for being named the GOAT?
If that’s the case, why is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hardly popular in current NBA GOAT conversations among fans and in media despite his league-most six MVPs? Michael Jordan, Lebron James and the late Kobe Bryant are always the ones being mentioned in social media GOAT debates.
Is Fajardo’s eight-championship total with the Beermen, inclusive of the last five Philippine Cup titles, part of the equation as well for PBA GOAT considerations?
If that’s the case, then Fajardo’s total will pale in comparison right now to Fernandez’s 19, although the former’s career isn’t over yet.
In the NBA, Bill Russell has the most number of championships won of all time among players but he, too, is rarely mentioned in GOAT discussions.
Career statistics-wise, will Fajardo be able to catch up with the likes of Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Benjie Paras and Jerry Codinera, among the many PBA legendary centers, in terms of scoring, rebounding and shotblocks, among others?
Right now, Fernandez, who played 20 seasons in the PBA, is No. 1 in the league’s all-time list in scoring (18,996), rebounding (8,652) and shotblocks (1,853) and No. 2 in assists (5,220, behind Sonny Jaworski’s 5,825) and steals (1,302, behind Johnny Abarrientos’ 1,358).
I guess we’ll never know until Fajardo’s playing career is over, right?
But maybe we can take a peek at the answer by comparing Fajardo’s numbers with those of the other legendary centers in PBA history who have won multiple MVP awards after their first seven seasons in the league.
Aside from Fernandez, who won each of his MVP awards with different teams (Toyota in 1982, Beer Hausen in 1984, Tanduay in 1986 and San Miguel Beer in 1988), other centers who won at least two MVPs in their PBA careers were Guidaben (two; with Crispa in 1983 and San Miguel Beer in 1987), Paras (two; 1989 & 1999 with Shell; the only Rookie of the Year & MVP winner ever which he did in 1989) and Danny Ildefonso (2 with San Miguel Beer in 2000 and 2001).
Here are their comparative numbers and awards won through their first seven PBA seasons:
Some notes we can infer from these numbers, or others worth noting:
* Fajardo’s 12.2 career rebounding average is actually No. 1 all-time among all local players to date, which should bode well if he intends to catch up with Fernandez’s numbers in that category.
* Fajardo has the worst free-throw shooting percentage among these 5 bigs in their first 7 seasons, which may be something he may want to improve on moving forward, and specially since he will likely continue to be among the most fouled players in the PBA for a long time, well unless he improves his foul-shooting.
* Even at 6-10, Fajardo’s shotblocking prowess pales in comparison to those of the 6-5 Paras’ and the 6-4 Fernandez’s, numbers-wise.
* Ildefonso’s 5 BPC awards is three less than Fajardo’s total but Danny I won his 5 consecutively - from the 2000 Commissioner’s Cup up to the end of the 2001 season.
* Guidaben never won an MVP nor was on the Mythical Team in his first seven seasons in the PBA and had the lowest across-the-board averages compared to the four other players but won the most number of championships in that span, all with Crispa.
If he isn’t yet, will June Mar be eventually the PBA’s GOAT by the time he hangs up his sneakers?