Throughout the course of his storied PBA career, Marc Pingris hardly carried any hesitations when it came to anything that involved basketball.
Pingris knew what it took to succeed, and he went to great lengths just to achieve the prerequisites of winning. This relentless approach and measured recklessness remained a constant for 16 years, endearing him to countless Filipino fans and earning him a decorated career worthy of an inclusion to the list of 40 Greatest Players in league history.
But much like his predecessors in the pantheon of PBA greats, Pingris was eventually faced with his own mortality at the crossroads of his career. Years after summiting the mountain that is Philippine basketball, Pingris had to climb another one -- quite literally, this time around -- before deciding to take on the new path that opened before him.
"I traveled back home to Pangasinan last week and I went mountain climbing by myself," he shared to News5's Lyn Olavario on Wednesday. "I used that time to really think about what I was going to do next. I thought about my priorities."
Shortly afterwards, a decision to close the book on a legendary career was made. The move, which he announced on social media on Tuesday, left Pingris grappling with a set of emotions that could not compare to anything he has ever felt since entering the league in 2004.
"It kind of feels like your girlfriend broke up with you. It's something like that. I didn't think that 16 years would feel so fast," Pingris described. "It's like carrying a huge weight on your chest. It hurts, but there's also a feeling of happiness."
Pingris was initially resistant to the idea of retiring. At 39, the nine-time champion and two-time Finals MVP felt like he had so much more in the tank -- and so did Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero, who insisted on reserving a precious roster spot for the beloved Purefoods franchise icon in anticipation of his return this offseason.
"I can actually still play," he clarified. "And I gave my 100 percent, I put in all the work this offseason just to be able to get back to action. I never gave up. I really worked on my conditioning. I wanted to stay fit."
But a comeback would not come to fruition for Pingris, who eventually came to terms with the end of his basketball career as familial priorities took precedence.
"Coach Chito actually wanted me to start practicing again, and I told him I'll come back. But along the way, I understood that I had other priorities," Pingris explained. "So I talked to coach and apologized, and I thanked him because he really fought to keep my spot in the team. I was embarrassed, of course, but I knew he understood my decision since he was once a player himself."
"I'm really thankful that he's there not just as a coach, but as a friend and as an older brother who had my back all the way," he added.
The decision to retire surprised even those closest to Pingris -- "Even my wife Danica was shocked because she didn't see it coming," he said -- but it was actually made with the utmost care and consideration for many factors after some consultation from his mentors.
"I asked my manager (Ed Ponceja) and my mentor Kerby Raymundo. I called up other players as well, like Danny I. (Ildefonso) and coach Johnny A. (Abarrientos) and I asked them how to deal with this situation. They gave me good advice. I even called Kap (Alvin Patrimonio) and coach Jeff Cariaso," Pingris bared.
"They told me that this decision would hurt at first because I got used to the grind -- to waking up early, going to practice, and things like that -- but they also said I'll slowly accept the fact that there's a new journey waiting ahead of me."
There's little clarity as to what comes next, although Pingris is already determined to keep a promise he made to his brother decades ago.
"When we were younger, I used to imagine my brother and I doing things we couldn't do because we had no money," he opened. "I promised to him that when I retire, we will go to places we couldn't go to before. That's what I want to do first. Of course, I'm also going to take care of our family business. And hopefully in the future, I get to personally train and work out with players, too."
Whatever he plans to do next, one thing is sure: the journey will be much more smooth-sailing this time around.
Comfort eluded Pingris and his family for most of his life growing up. Years before being introduced to the luxuries of basketball, the Pozorrubio, Pangasinan native had to help his mother make ends meet just to put food on the table.
"We really had a difficult life growing up. So after I got drafted, the first person I really looked for was my mother. I hugged her and thanked her for helping us get through such incredibly difficult times in Pangasinan. No matter what happened, she always managed to put food on the table and never allowed me and my siblings to miss even a single meal in a day," Pingris said.
"Basketball truly gave my family a comfortable life," he continued. "Who would imagine that a kid who worked and slept in the wet market would become a PBA player? When my name was called on Draft Night, I told myself that this is the start of great things, that I will not let go of this opportunity."
Pingris stuck to his word after getting drafted by FedEx with the third overall pick in the 2004 PBA Draft. He also suited up for a single year with San Miguel in the 2008-09 season, but most of the 15-time All-Star's career played out with the Purefoods franchise, which clinched the fifth Grand Slam in league history with Pingris manning the middle in 2014.
More importantly, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year cemented himself as a certified Gilas Pilipinas legend after growing to be the heart and soul of the Philippine teams that won silver medals in the 2013 and 2015 FIBA Asia Championships and played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
"I'm thankful to coach Chot Reyes and to the MVP Group for giving me the opportunity to play for the Philippines. I wasn't a star player in the PBA. I was just a role player. But they gave me an opportunity to try out and play for Gilas," he expressed. "It's truly an honor wearing the Philippine jersey and playing for the flag."
Pingris' departure will certainly leave a huge hole in the Magnolia frontcourt, but he believes the Hotshots already have someone ready to fill his shoes.
"It's like I'm not really leaving Magnolia because Calvin (Abueva) is there, you know? We play the same way, and we play with the same heart," Pingris remarked. "I just told him to keep his cool, and to always maintain that boundless energy. He has to keep the same level of aggression on both ends of the floor."
As for his legacy and how he wants to be remembered, Pingris simply hopes to influence a generation that plays with the same passion he played with for 15 unforgettable seasons.
"I don't regret anything because I've given it my all for 16 years here in the PBA," he said. "And I gave my heart to the game. I want people to remember me for that. I wasn't the most skilled player out there, but my heart was bigger than my talents. That's why I played the way I played."