Skywalker Samboy Limís air show always left us in awe

Gerry Plaza on Apr 12, 2017 11:21 AM
Skywalker Samboy Limís air show always left us in awe
As a member of the San Miguel Beermen, Samboy took the professional basketball game to greater heights with his heads-up yet clean playóof course, bringing to the fore his spectacular fly-bys off gritty defenders (Photo courtesy of 1988-1989 PBA Annual)

By the time you see him enter the court, raucous cheers had already overtaken the already loud drums and cymbals.

Spectators scream as he gets the ball, dribbles towards the basket, and glides for a dunk. And this was just the pre-game warmup.

Avelino “Samboy” Lim had already gotten a solid reputation by word of mouth. Letran had signed this impressive rookie from the San Beda Red Cubs, which he led to the 1978 NCAA juniors title, and believed in his promise. And, starting only in his freshman year, Samboy did not fail the Knights and showed something no other college player at that time would even dream of accomplishing.

He could fly.

Such aerial lifts of fancy at the time was only limited to NBA lore, with Julius Erving as its biggest icon. Perhaps Samboy saw his idol Dr. J’s breathtaking flights with much adulation, and made it his goal to emulate. Surely, he didn’t disappoint.

Game after game, Samboy was a joy to watch. His acrobatic, high-flying incursions into the paint were astonishing. Spectators are just left awestruck as he defied gravity with his perilous yet mind-blowing hangtime, and delivered the goods when it mattered most.

Because of his phenomenal exploits, Samboy brought home the NCAA seniors title to Letran three consecutive times from 1982-1984—an emphatic grand slam that solidified his legend.

Not only that. As he entered the PABL, his winning ways did not stop. Now conspiring with another exciting player, Jojo Lastimosa, Samboy led the M. Lhuillier Jewelers to its first-ever successful title run.

Then, his path to glory had been laid.

Ron Jacobs could not pass up the chance of recruiting this young aerial stalwart in building the idyllic national team ready to face the world’s best. Now part of the Northern Consolidated team that represented the country in numerous international competitions, Samboy showcased his exciting on-court maneuvers on the world stage. His most memorable global stint was the 1985 ABC Championships, spearheading the Philippine team to its first title since 1973, and becoming part of the tournament’s Mythical Five with fellow hotshot Allan Caidic.

After the NCC program disbanded, Samboy’s next remarkable step was bringing his much ballyhooed game to the pro ranks. After a brief sabbatical in the PBA, Magnolia Ice Cream, part of the San Miguel Corp. franchise, virtually drafted all of the remnants of the NCC team, including Samboy, for the 1986 Reinforced Conference.

Since then, the true Skywalker got his wings.

As a member of the San Miguel Beermen, Samboy took the professional basketball game to greater heights with his heads-up yet clean play—of course, bringing to the fore his spectacular fly-bys off gritty defenders. His on-court heroics led to the Beermen’s unforgettable first Grand Slam in 1989 that further catapulted this humble and soft-spoken prolific cager to among the professional league’s greatest ever.

However, this heralded journey had always been stymied by injury—a result of his intense, high-wire, almost death defying aerial acts.  He often limped off the court, sometimes by stretcher mostly after crashing to the floor due to the pro game’s rugged play. This cut short his pro career to a mere nine seasons, but his relatively short stint had been considered as among the most remarkable in PBA history, even if he never won an MVP award.

Samboy might not have the lofty stats to break records, nor a long list of awards to show, but his impact on the game is still unprecedented. Not only because he was the first Filipino player who took the game to the air and influenced such local high-flying greats as Vergel Meneses and Paul Alvarez. He also was a role model, whose exemplary attitude on and off the court is an inspiration to everyone.

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