May 24, 2024

Interview with the Kraken: How Abai June Mar inspired my own journey

Interview with the Kraken: How Abai June Mar inspired my own journey
It was 2013 when I first watched a PBA game live. It was also June Mar’s rookie year. (Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports)
If you told me 12 years ago that I would have a chance to interview my idol, my 11-year-old self would probably laugh at you and continue playing jackstone with her friends.

 

But my old (or is it young?) self would be delighted in the fact that I not only met my basketball hero, I also got to interview June Mar Fajardo.

 

 

 

 

 

I used to be that kid who cheered for June Mar from the upper box bleachers at the Mall of Asia Arena with her family. After their games, we used to run as fast as we could so we could catch the players and have a chance to take a picture as they made their exit.

 

It was 2013 when I first watched a PBA game live. It was also June Mar’s rookie year.

 

I remembered shouting his name as loud as I could, just so he could notice me. I did not mind the barricades and the security guards who were glaring at me. 

 

Once, June Mar heard my voice and obliged for picture. My mom took the photo.

 

Guess who was the famous in school the next day?

 

But how did my fangirling with June Mar start anyway?

 

 

My dad is an avid San Miguel Beermen fan, really just an avid basketball fan in general, and we love watching basketball games together.

 

And so even before he became “The Kraken," I immediately knew that June Mar would be a legendary basketball player someday, as soon as I saw him get picked first in the 2012 PBA Draft.

 

While he didn’t exactly have the smoothest PBA start, greatness takes time.

 

In 2013 at the height of Petronovela, the Blaze Boosters squared off with San Mig Coffee for the Governors’ Cup title.

 

It was June Mar’s first Finals appearance. It was also his first championship heartbreak, losing in seven even as the favorites.

 

It was vivid in my memory how as a 23-year-old rookie, Abai cried after that game. His frustration looked so intense, and I saw how agonized he was.

 

And then that was the moment that hit me.

 

If a 6-foot-11, first-pick basketball player can cry, so can I.

 

Crying is not a sign of weakness. It is perfectly normal to feel emotions. What is more important is that we bounce back from our failures.

 

And that is what he did. He bounced back really hard.

 

June Mar Fajardo is currently a seven-time PBA MVP and on track for an 8th. He also just collected his 10th championship with the San Miguel Beermen after defeating the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots in Game 6 of the PBA Season 48 Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

 

In what certainly fits as a full circle moment from the 2013 series… nakabawi na si Abai.

READ: San Miguel breaks Magnolia's heart anew, hoists 29th PBA trophy

No. 8 incoming? June Mar Fajardo leads Season 48 PBA MVP race

 

I have been taking him as an inspiration ever since I was 11 years old.

 

Every failed journalism contest of mine is just like every game that he lost.

 

Every daunting opportunity I take is just like every chance he takes to play for Gilas Pilipinas.

 

And now that I am currently 23, the same age when he entered the PBA as a rookie, I’m likewise in my rookie year with One Sports as a reporter and among the opportunities I got on the beat was a chance to have an interview with the Kraken himself during a Gilas practice.

 

The moment was so surreal. It was a dream come true.

 

Alexa, play “This is the Moment” by Anthony Warlow.

 

We can say that, just like June Mar, I also won the championship.

 

And just like him, who is continuously improving himself as a player, this “championship” marks a new beginning.

 

The beginning of writing more stories to inspire and empower athletes and people in sports.

 

And for June Mar, to bring further pride and glory for the country starting with FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers.

 

While Fajardo is set to sit out window 1 of these qualifiers to recover from a calf injury, he is still extending his support for the Gilas Pilipinas’ rising stars like Carl Tamayo, AJ Edu, Kevin Quiambao, and Kai Sotto.

READ: June Mar Fajardo asked to rest for two weeks due to calf injury

Abai is humble and human enough to know his place on the court. He knows his presence can inspire. And if the great June Mar can bounce back from failures, then so can we.