James Yap paid a heartfelt tribute to former teammate Marc Pingris, who announced his retirement from professional basketball on Tuesday, saying the veteran forward was not only his teammate but a family on and off the court.

/ 27 May 2021

The two-time Most Valuable Player shared a photo of them when they were both still playing for San Mig Coffee, now named Magnolia. 

The post came on Wednesday, a day after the 39-year-old announced via social media that he is finally hanging up his basketball sneakers for good, admitting that Pingris’ decision took him by surprise.

Sabay tayo nagsimula in 2004 kaya nagulat ako na mag-retire ka na,” said the Rain or Shine star in a post on his Instagram account. 

Madami-dami din tayong pinagdaanan na gyera sa loob ng court, magkasama tayo sa hirap at saya,” he added.

The two gunners started playing together at Welcoat in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL) before entering the pros in 2004 where they became 2nd and 3rd selections by Purefoods and FedEx, respectively.

The two reunited the following year which resulted in a partnership never seen before that racked them with multiple championships to the franchise, including a grand slam in 2014.

They won their first PBA championship in the 2006 Philippine Cup, where Pingris bagged home the Finals MVP award and Yap named the season’s MVP. 

In 2016, their time as teammates saw an end after Purefoods dealt Yap to Rain or Shine for Paul Lee in a blockbuster trade. 

Yap, who now plays for Rain or Shine and the only remaining active player from the 2004 rookie batch, averred that their bond with Pingris goes beyond the court and was grateful for the years playing alongside him. 

Gusto ko na take tong opportunity na to na pasalamatan ka @jeanmarc15 sa lahat ng ginawa mo para sa akin. You were one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” said Yap.

“Our brotherhood and friendship started with basketball, pero alam ko that we go beyond that, na kahit di na tayo pareho naglalaro, di magbabago ang samahan natin. Congrats sa retirement tol. See you around,” he ended.