MARC Pingris has a confession to make.
Ageless Asi Taulava was his idol and inspiration on the way to a successful PBA career path.
The Magnolia veteran made the disclosure in the third and final part of PBA Kamustahan Episode 1, where each of the featured guest were asked to describe their fellow players.
Taulava, the 47-year-old center of NLEX, graced the 30-minute podcast along with Pingris, six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel, Rain or Shine's Beau Belga, Poy Erram of Tnt Katropa, and league commissioner Willie Marcial.
When it was the turn of Pingris to address Taulava, the Pozorrubio, Pangasinan native dropped the bombshell.
"Asi you don't know this, but you're my idol," said the 38-year-old Pingris. "I used to watch you play in the PBL (Philippine Basketball League). Grabe, you're so strong, you're a monster."
Although taken aback, Taulava was quick to express his gratitude to Pingris.
"Thank you, Ping," he said.
Pingris said he appreciates Taulava's love and passion for the game, which he felt was in full display when Asi was seen on national tv shedding tears after top seed Mobiline was ambushed by no. 8 seed Ginebra in the 1999 All-Filipino Cup playoffs on guard Bal David's game-winning basket at the buzzer.
The year was Taulava's rookie season in the league when Pingris was still an 18-year-old teener.
"I saw you crying as a Phone Pal against Ginebra. Sorry, A," said Pingris while laughing as he teases his idol about the fateful loss 21 years ago.
But the 6-foot-4 forward, a nine-time champion with the Purefoods franchise, commiserated with Taulava.
"I saw you crying because I know you love the game very much. And you gave your 100 percent na gusto mo talagang manalo," Pingris added.
"Yung passion niya sa basketball nandoon talaga nung napanood ko yun."
More proof of Ping being a solid Taulava fan had him reminding the Fil-Tongan about his famous one-liner in a Mobiline commercial Asi did back then.
"Kahit yung nagpi-free throw, yung 'I-miss mo,' ginagaya ko," said Pingris of the memorable Mobiline ad that brought the house down. "Every time I go out, sasabihin ko sa mga kaibigan ko, 'I-miss mo.' Game over."
In parting, Pingris paid Taulava the ultimate compliment.
"You're my idol, you're the best bro," he said. "Siguro noon, si Asi yung Shaquille O'Neil ng PBA." (RG)