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PJ Simon was the toughest player Jimmy Alapag faced

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Jimmy Alapag was among those who tipped their hats to Peter June Simon when the 40-year-old announced his retirement from the game, putting an end to one of the best underdog stories local cage has seen.

The proud son of Makilala, North Cotabato took to social media Wednesday to let it be known that he is hanging up his sneakers for good after 16 seasons in the PBA — spent entirely with the Purefoods franchise.

“Congrats on a Hall of Fame career my friend! Always had my utmost respect! One of the best,” Alapag commented on Simon’s Instagram post, which has nearly 19,000 likes as of this posting.

Simon was chosen by the now-defunct Sta. Lucia as the 43rd overall pick in the 2001 PBA Draft, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he played in the pros after signing as a rookie free agent with Purefoods.

Alapag, at that time, was already in his second year in the league with Talk N Text, and they would eventually cross paths countless times — including meetings in the Big Dance.

And for the decorated floor general, Simon was the toughest that he had ever defended — a confession he made during his guest appearance in 2OT, presented by SMART last August 29.

“Easy. PJ Simon. I had nightmares about that one-arm floater with him posting me up. One of the best,” said Alapag in the podcast hosted by veteran broadcasters Carlo Pamintuan and Magoo Marjon.

The six-time PBA champion even recalled playing physical just to slow down the 5-foot-11 slasher, but to no avail.

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And making it even challenging, the player-turned-coach said, is how Simon carried himself despite all the hits.

He would never say a word, which made it even tougher! Because I would do everything — push him away from the block, hit his arm, hold him,” Alapag shared, smiling.

“Nothing worked.”

Simon is undoubtedly one of the game’s most reliable scorers, thus earning the nickname the Scoring Apostle. He may have never been crowned as a scoring champ, but there should be no question how worthy he was to Purefoods.

The two-time Mr. Quality Minutes awardee helped the storied ball club win eight championships, including of course the rare Grand Slam feat in 2014 — the same season he was named to the Mythical Second Team.

“But, you know, he’s one of the best scorers ever to play in the PBA.”

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