Greg Slaughter vs. June Mar Fajardo: A Rivalry

There are generally two types of people: those who like their pizza thin crust and crispy and those who like their pizza thick crust and fluffy. But these two types of people aren’t at war with each other, they’re just different. And they can co-exist without bashing each other. One side likes their pizza this way, the other likes it that way. Yet they both share a simple truth: pizza is awesome.

The June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter “rivalry” is somewhat like that.

But, wait, isn’t this Commissioner’s Cup Finals matchup nine years in the making? Don’t they go way back? Comparing basketball players to pizza, isn’t that a bit of stretch and also quite stupid?

Yes, yes, and hell yes. June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter have been pitted against each other since their days in Cebu, when young June Mar looked more like a less athletic and upsized version of Rodney Santos and young Greg looked more like, well, Greg without the facial hair.

Since then, June Mar’s PBA career zigged while Greg’s zagged. Their on-court matchups were always hyped up, but much of it was because of nostalgia, of seeing these two giants bring their college wars to the pros, of wanting to see any sort of animosity between the two. Sorry, fans of basketball who also grew up fans of wrestling, there is no animosity between June Mar and Greg to speak of. There’s no hate—a key ingredient in any rivalry. Not even a passive aggressive hint of it.

June Mar and Greg aren’t at war at each other, despite the history, they’re just different. If you put June Mar and Greg side-by-side, you can easily pick a side, but you simply can’t hate on one and stan on the other.

Take hairstyle, for example. This category might go to #TeamJuneMar, just because June Mar has made bolder choices. He did the highlights, the full-on blonde, the Mohawk. There was a time when he horribly combined all three, perhaps as a tribute to the horrible period of Petronovela. Greg’s hair has always been just short.

On Instagram, June Mar has more followers with more than 136,000 while Greg is at 99,800. Greg is more of a Twitter guy.

Greg’s demeanor is laidback, composed, and cool, bordering on indifferent. But really, Greg’s game is built on fundamentals and calculated movements. No need for flair. June Mar, on the other hand, has a lot of tricks on the court. Off the court, he’s a character. Search for June Mar Fajardo videos on YouTube and you’d find these gems: “Funny Junemar Fajardo show off his talent how to climb a coconut tree,” “Marc Pingris Junemar Fajardo Funny Moments,” and “Junemar Fajardo funny caught Marc Pingris singing Shakira songs.”

Even their names are worlds apart. Gregory William Slaughter sounds like a person of authority from the military or a character from The Walking Dead. June Mar Fajardo sounds like someone who can star in a 90s Pinoy action film.

Their nicknames, Kraken and Gregzilla, are from the same monster world, but even that is up for a do-over. June Mar and Greg are not monsters on the path to destruction. They’re two adorable, lovable basketball nerds who are both very, very tall and both very, very good at what they do. They also have respect each other—also a key and more important ingredient in any rivalry.

In Game 1 of the Finals, June Mar and Greg showed on the floor why they’ve been downplaying their rivalry in the PBA. It’s not about their one-on-one output, but about how they can help their respective teams win. On paper, they pretty much cancelled each other out; Greg’s 11 and 7 and 3 blocks in 21 minutes keeping up with June Mar’s 13 and 12 and 1 block in 30 minutes.

But what’s not shown on the stats was how Greg’s mere presence on the floor made June Mar busy and allowed Justin Brownlee (who shot an insane 17-19 FGs) to get to his favorite spots and attack the rim. It didn’t reflect how the attention demanded by June Mar opened the floor for the San Miguel shooters (if only they made their 3s; they shot 7 of 29 from 3).

Greg vs June Mar was never about the one-on-one competition (although it is always fun to watch), it’s how two talented big men, a rarity in the PBA, can be important pieces in a championship puzzle. Without one of them on the floor, it tips the balance of the game and changes the flow. But with both of them on the floor, there’s a stability in offensive and defensive structures; Greg and June Mar acting as nearly 7-foot pillars.

June Mar and Greg are both unstoppable inside the paint, that piece of land in the PBA where big men are hacked, where Calvin Abueva lurks, where you can get outrebounded by Scottie Thompson. But their contrasting styles and their smooth, one-on-one moves are awesome, regardless of the outcome of their post-up duel. Fans can enjoy it in any shape or form. Just like pizza.