PJ Simon made his retirement official Wednesday after playing all of his 17 PBA seasons with the Purefoods franchise.
Simon took to Instagram to announce his decision, days after the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok left him in the free agent pool.
The eight-time PBA champion and two-time Mr. Quality Minutes was supposed to finish off his career after the Philippine Cup but the season-opening conference was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 40-year-old said that the death of his father coupled with the difficulty of getting back to Manila due to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic played a role in his decision to hang it up for good.
His wife, former beauty Jehza Huelar, is also pregnant which is why Simon is also eager to put his focus on more important things.
“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,” Simon said.
“Binigay ko yung 17 years ng buhay ko sa PBA, sa Magnolia Hotshots, at sa lahat ng fans but now it’s time to focus on my family. My wife is pregnant and gusto ko magkasama kami as we start a family,” he added.
The announcement marked an end to a career that seemed to be a pipe dream for Simon, who was left unsigned despite being selected by Sta. Lucia in the fifth round of the 2001 PBA Draft.
He suited up for the Davao Eagles in the Metropolitan Basketball Association, becoming one of its best players until the regional pro league closed shop in mid-2002.
With the MBA gone, Simon took his act to the Philippine Basketball League, immediately becoming one of the league’s best players. He spent all of his two seasons in the amateur ranks with the Hapee franchise, winning a couple of championships.
His performance prompted the PBA to come knocking, and Simon inked a contract to play for Purefoods in 2004.
Simon was a reliable super sub to James Yap during the franchise’s run to championships under Ryan Gregorio, Tim Cone and Chito Victolero with his ability to score as if he was a starter.
The high point of his PBA career was in 2014 when Simon was a major contributor of San Mig Super Coffee’s historic Grand Slam, the fifth in PBA history and Cone’s second.
“Hindi ko inakalang posible pala para sa isang payat at maliit na bata mula sa Makilala, North Cotabato na makarating sa PBA,” said Simon, a native of Makilala, North Cotobato and a University of Mindanao standout.
“Hindi ko rin inakala na pagkatapos hindi mapansin nung 2001 PBA Rookie Draft na posible pa pala mag-iwan ng sarili kong marka sa liga. Nakakalungkot man pero ito na siguro yung tamang panahon para magpaalam sa liga.”