PBA legend Ramon Fernandez wasn't surprised when San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo broke the three-decade-old record of four Most Valuable Player trophies he shares with Alvin Patrimonio during the Leo Awards Sunday night at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Fernandez, in fact, mentioned that Fajardo can continue to add to his trophy case if he remains healthy.
"(Fajardo) could win up to eight MVPs because there's no one who can stop him. And that's for as long as he stays healthy and San Miguel remains a contender every conference, he will really be up there winning more MVP trophies," Fernandez told ESPN5 on Monday.
"Of course, I'm very happy (he won five MVP awards) because that would give credence that we have motivated the younger players back in the days when we were playing (in the PBA)," shared Fernandez, who now serves as one of the commissioners in the Philippine Sports Commission.
"It's a joy to see the young players follow our footsteps whom we have inspired and try to break the record we made."
Fernandez felt among the many big men in the PBA, Ginebra's Greg Slaughter would have been the best bet to give Fajardo a run for his money. But Slaughter has been sidelined several times the past three seasons with various injuries, which has delayed his growth as a pro.
No easy road to four MVP trophies
Asked about the degree of difficulty of playing in his time, Fernandez admitted the competition was far more challenging during his 20-year career in the PBA.
"It was difficult to win four MVPs in my time because a lot of teams contended for the championship," recalled the man dubbed as "El Presidente".
Fernandez, who won an astounding 19 PBA titles, captured the MVP trophy in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988. He would have won a fifth MVP in 1989 after helping San Miguel register the pro league's second Grand Slam in history. But a young center named Benjie Paras stole the spotlight when he became the first player in PBA history to win the Rookie of the Year and the MVP awards in the same season.
Fernandez said it helps that Fajardo's team has won six league championships since the 2015 season, allowing him to capture the last five MVP trophies in the process.
"We know that in an MVP race, if you always make it to the semis or even finals, you're ahead in statistical points. So in the case of June Mar, he leads in the stats," he added.
Unlike his four previous MVPs when he went virtually unchallenged, Fajardo saw NorthPort playmaker Stanley Pringle emerge as the stats leader after guiding the Batang Pier to the playoffs in each of the three conferences last season. But the SMB star center won by a big margin in the media votes and the PBA votes on the way to his record-setting fifth MVP plum.
Fajardo missed a big chunk of the Governors' Cup due to a shin injury, which allowed Pringle to take the lead in the MVP stats race.