PBA owes a large part of its 43-year longevity and success to its rivalries.
They make the game more interesting, especially with the surrounding narratives that come with it for the fan’s enjoyment.
However, there are also some “almost rivalries” or the ones that are good on paper but never really lived up to the hype due to various circumstances.
Here at FOX Sports PH, we look one of the league’s “almost rivalries”; the match up between two behemoths in June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter:
Before the PBA
The two big men first saw action together in the collegiate ranks in CESAFI. Fajardo would be the top gun for the University of Cebu Webmasters and Slaughter would man the middle for the University of Visayas Green Lancers.
They share MVP plums between them, with Fajardo winning three (most in league history) and Slaughter winning two. On their last season meeting each other in 2009, they were named co-MVPs due to their stellar showings.
However, Slaughter would always get the last laugh as his team would dominate Fajardo’s Webmasters, including a 3-1 victory in the 2009 Finals. Slaughter moved on to play for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, where he won two more championships. The Gregzilla was picked first overall in the 2013 PBA Draft.
On the other hand, Fajardo played one season for San Miguel in the ABL, where his team lost in the Finals against the Indonesia Warriors. He was be picked first overall in the 2012 PBA Draft.
First head-to-head in the Pros
In 2014, their supposed rivalry would be renewed in a colossal match up, with the PBA All-Star slated to duel against the Gilas Pilipinas Select Team.
In one momentous sequence, Fajardo would post Slaughter up, and after a series of dribbles and pivots, Slaughter blocked Fajardo’s fadeaway attempt that drew a roar from the crowd. But in a few minutes later, The Kraken would put Gregzilla in his place with a variety of moves in the low block.
Slaughter’s team went on to win against the Fajardo-led Gilas team, 101-93, with both of them tallying 11 and 10 points respectively. Through this match up, PBA fans got a glimpse of what was supposed to be the league’s selling point for years to come.
What has happened since then
It’s safe to say that their professional careers went on different ways so far.
Fajardo’s development was hastened due to his rich playoff experience early on with the San Miguel franchise. His team would often go to as far as at least the semis, and he racked up multiple accolades along the way. Meanwhile, Slaughter’s career has been mired by multiple injuries and his team never quite made it over the hump on the onset of their budding rivalry.
It’s quite unfortunate that their budding rivalry has not taken off yet. But with both approaching their respective primes,we can expect to see more of them going head-to-head in the next conferences – barring injuries, of course.