Marc Pingris is officially retiring after a decorated 16-year career in the PBA.
The 15-time All-Star made the announcement Tuesday evening in a lengthy post on his Instagram page.
"I remember my name being called during the 2004 PBA Draft. Doon nagsimulang matupad ang pangarap ng isang batang palengke. 16 years na din ako sa PBA pero alam ko na ngayon na din ang tamang panahon para umpisahan ang bagong chapter ng buhay ko," wrote Pingris.
"It has been a glorious 16 years, #pinoysakuragi15signingoff."
Pingris, 39, was drafted third overall in the 2004 PBA Draft and went on to carve out a Hall of Fame-worthy career that also earned him a spot in the league's list of 40 Greatest Players.
The Pozorrubio, Pangasinan native won nine championships, including the league's fifth Grand Slam in the 2014 season.
Pingris, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time All-Defensive Team member, also won two Finals MVP awards and a Most Improved Player award.
His success also stretched on to the international stage, where Pingris won a Southeast Asian Games gold medal in 2003, two silvers in the FIBA Asia Championship in 2013 and 2015, and another silver in the 2015 William Jones Cup. He also played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
TNT Tropang Giga coach Chot Reyes, who coached Pingris on Gilas Pilipinas from 2013 to 2014, said the power forward's "work ethic, selflessness and deep love for country" were what set him apart.
"Retirements are always bittersweet," said Reyes in a message to ESPN5. "On one hand I'll be seeing the last of a player who is very special to me; but on the other hand I'm glad he's retiring on his own terms and beginning a new phase of his still young life.
"He WAS #puso not only in 2014 but also in the FIBA ASIA in 2013."
Due to his relentless style and resemblance to the Slam Dunk lead character, Pingris earned the moniker "Pinoy Sakuragi" from Filipino basketball fans. To his teammates and coaches, he was known simlpy as "Ping".
Pingris left rural Pozorrubio in the late 1990s, headed to Manila to search for a better life. He first became part of Far Eastern University before moving to the Philippine School of Business Administration.
The forward also briefly played for the Cebu Gems in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association and Welcoat Paints in the Philippine Basketball League, where he gradually made a name for himself.
Pingris played majority of his career with the Purefoods franchise and will surely retire as one of its most beloved players. He was picked third overall by the FedEx Express in the 2004 PBA Draft but was traded later in the season to the Purefoods Chunkee Giants. The following season, he won his first PBA championship and first Finals MVP after Purefoods beat Red Bull in the 2006 Philippine Cup Finals.
He was traded to the San Miguel Beermen during the 2008-09 season but found his way back to Purefoods before the start of the 2009-10 season and stayed with the team until his retirement, teaming up with James Yap to form one of the most popular duos in the league. Yap, incidentally, is now the only active player left from the 2004 PBA rookie batch.
Pingris' career was never the same when he suffered an ACL tear in the curtain raiser of the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals. It took him 468 days before he was able to return for the Hotshots in their 99-96 win against Phoenix in the 2019 Commissioner's Cup.
After making the return, he managed to play 21 games in that season, but his numbers took a massive drop to just 3.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in only 14.7 minutes of action.
Pingris remained unsigned after his contract expired last December 31. He wasn't able to join the team inside the "bubble" in Clark in 2020 after aggravating a right calf injury during a workout session.
He said in an interview last January that he was already contemplating retirement due to the wear and tear brought about by his rugged inside play.
"I'm giving myself until end of March to decide because I can't command my body to be okay. I know I'm not getting any younger plus the wear and tear I've had playing," Pingris relayed in Filipino to ESPN5's Richard Dy.
Pingris was still attending rehab three times a week to help alleviate the damage his legs had accumulated over the years at the time of the interview.
Team governor Rene Pardo previously told Pingris that the 39-year-old had nothing to prove anymore.
"I told him before that at this point in his career, he's got nothing to prove already. He has served the national team well, we won a Grand Slam, but now, we all know that his knee has taken a lot of beating already," recalled Pardo.
"And that's why I told him to weigh things carefully since he also has to think of his family," he added.
In 658 games, Pingris averaged 7.9 points on 53.7 percent shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks.
With additional reporting from Sid Ventura.