Accidental friendship: Pingris recalls how his bond with Fajardo started and blossomed
MANILA, Philippines—There have been so many friendships born in the PBA, like those of teammates like Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand or the one between Olsen Racela and Danny Ildefonso.
But there is one more bromance that’s captivated the audience’s hearts and that is the one between June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris.
The two were never teammates in the PBA but they have a friendship that’s so wholesome and pure that it’s akin to a children’s story.
Pingris said that his friendship with Fajardo did not start on the basketball floor—whether in the PBA or in the several Gilas practices when they became teammates—but through mutual friend Jun Cabatu and of course Dota.
“I have a friend Jun Cabatu, whom I’ve been friends with since when were together in RP Youth, and we’ve been playing games ever since before we moved on to Dota,” said Pingris in Filipino during an interview with Inquirer. “I didn’t know that Jun was also friends with June Mar, this was before I knew June Mar.”
“I don’t know if they played with each other in Cebu then I saw June Mar in one league [the ASEAN Basketball League] then Jun took him to Metrowalk because that’s where we played Dota.”
As to why basketball players had to cram inside a computer shop in Pasig, Dota back then relied on local area network to connect players as it was just a custom map of Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne unlike Dota 2 which can be played through the Internet.
Pingris, then an already established star in the PBA, said he didn’t know that Fajardo was also playing in the same computer cafe he frequented in Metrowalk until Cabatu introduced them to each other.
Fajardo was still playing for San Miguel in the ABL that time and he was teammates with Cabatu.
“I didn’t know that June Mar was also playing in the same shop, I think he was shy and was scared to talk to me,” said Pingris. “But Jun introduced us then that was when it started.”
Marc Pingris talks about how he and June Mar Fajardo became friends and how their friendship evolved beyond basketball.
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) May 28, 2021
Pingris and Fajardo’s friendship even deepened when the future six-time MVP got into the PBA albeit in painful ways.
In their first game against each other, Pingris accidentally elbowed Fajardo in the family jewels resulting in the then-rookie being hospitalized and miss a bulk of his first PBA conference.
Pingris said that he and Cabatu visited Fajardo at Cardinal Santos Hospital to apologize and talk it over a bag of chips.
“I didn’t know that the blow was that severe, so Jun and I went to the hospital and I brought chips,” said Pingris laughing. “That was when we became really close.”
The two became teammates at Gilas several times and acted out like mischievous boys on a school outing.
Pingris said that Then Gilas head coach Chot Reyes would assign them to different hotel rooms whenever they had to travel outside the country and strictly told them to get some rest once practices are over.
“After our practices, the first thing we’ll do is play Dota. Coach even told us that we cannot change rooms but we will talk with our other teammates so we can switch then we’ll just play until we got tired.”