MANILA, Philippines -- Teammates and rivals alike are showering PJ Simon with praise after the veteran guard announced his retirement from the PBA.
Simon steps away from the league after a glittering 17-year career, all of which were spent with the Purefoods franchise. He retires as an eight-time champion, a member of San Mig Coffee's 2014 Grand Slam team, an eight-time All-Star, and a two-time Mr. Quality Minutes awardee.
His longtime teammate in Purefoods (now Magnolia), Marc Pingris, paid tribute to Simon on Instagram.
"Salamat sa mga kwentuhan, champion, kulitan at samahan natin! Saludo ako sa 'yo. Mabait na kaibigan at mapagmahal sa family at sa fans! It's time na mag-enjoy ka kasama ang maganda at mabait mo na asawa," he said.
Mark Barroca, another longtime teammate, thanked Simon for their partnership in the Magnolia backcourt.
Players from other teams were similarly effusive in their praise of Simon, who established himself as one of the best Sixth Men in the league. Gabe Norwood, the veteran Rain or Shine captain, said on Instagram that he "always respected the way you competed and the way you played the game."
"It was my pleasure playing against you," San Miguel's Chris Ross also commented.
Sol Mercado made note of Simon's kind demeanor, but stressed that he was a "real killer on that hardwood."
"Always respectful and classy, never took your kindness for weakness," Mercado said.
Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso said Simon is "one of my favorite people in the PBA."
"Congratulations on a great career. Such a warrior and winner on the court. And a genuine, high character individual off it," he said. "We'll see you soon. Good luck in the next chapter of your life."
Mark Caguioa, who like Simon was drafted in 2001, said that the guard known as the "Scoring Apostle" is "one of the nicest guy on and off the court."
"PJ might be a nice guy but don't let that fool you," the Ginebra veteran added. "I call this guy a quiet assassin because he usually goes under the radar. He is a born winner and a true champion. Thank you for all the great battles."
Simon had gone unsigned after being selected in the 2001 draft, and would not enter the PBA until 2004 when Purefoods signed him as a free agent. Then-coach Ryan Gregorio told ABS-CBN News that he was so impressed with Simon during his stint in the Philippine Basketball League, where he led Hapee Toothpaste to a championship over a Welcoat team that featured future teammate James Yap.
Gregorio took a chance in signing Simon as a free agent in the same year that they acquired Yap and Paul Artadi through the PBA Rookie Draft. They joined a loaded Purefoods squad that had Pingris and Kerby Raymundo in the frontcourt and Roger Yap in the backcourt.
"PJ came off the bench," Gregorio recalled. "He was my super sub. He would come in and manufacture instant offense for us."
Gregorio called Simon "truly one of the best players that I have coached."
"His basketball skill set is complete," he said.
But like Simon's teammates and rivals, what impressed Gregorio most about the "Scoring Apostle" is his genuinely good personality both on and off the court.
"More than his on-court exploits, his demeanor separates him from the rest. There is no mean bone in his body. He is your consummate player and a model person. I wish him all the best in his future undertakings," said Gregorio.
The Purefoods franchise plans to retire Simon's No. 8 jersey next season.