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Samboy Lim: the hero

01:01 AM December 10, 2014

Waking up that morning, I was greeted with shocking news from my wife that a Facebook friend collapsed Friday night and had yet to regain his senses. And indeed, as soon as I logged on, the messages came in rapid succession, mostly from worried netizens asking everyone for a prayer, and from others like me, belatedly informed and unable to grasp what was going on.

I wouldn’t pretend to know Samboy Lim personally, and with more reason, I don’t expect him to even recognize me if I bump into him on a crowded street. Ours is a passing acquaintance, more coincidence than nurtured friendship. All I did was post, one day in August, a hastily written remembrance of my experiences as an avid basketball fan a very long time ago, and in the whole excitement of my nostalgia, I professed my admiration of him for being a true gentleman and old-school role model/athlete.

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Somehow, that post found its way to his niece in the United States, and it may have been shared back to him through the wonders of Facebook. The next thing I knew, Samboy had written a very short thank-you note on the same post on my wall, and something deep down in my gut told me it wasn’t just a poser paid by some PR agent to promote athletes that had dropped me a line. I just knew it was really him—the “Skywalker” of legend, who is just as noble with his feet on the ground.

That one short thank-you note brought me back in time, and sparked the boyhood faith that I had when I was just a fan, when, despite my total inexperience with life, I was careful enough in choosing my heroes—which was why I found him. And if then, not even knowing the man, I had placed upon him my fullest faith, why would I doubt him now?

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The message from Samboy started an exchange that ran for days and ended with an invitation from him: Would I like to visit him one day? He even reminded me to bring along my two boys so that we could talk and hang out and have our pictures together. I couldn’t believe what he was saying, and why he had to go to this length of trying to extend his friendship to a total stranger, when all that I did was write a mindless post on my Facebook wall, without expecting that someone else apart from my closest friends would read it.

It was especially heartwarming after all these years to be proven right: My hero is truly worthy of my faith and the heartbreak that I had to endure because of him—for every shot missed, for every game that his team lost, and for every injury that befell my hero. His absolute dedication to basketball and the fire in his game that his fans loved to see, and his honest resolve to give it to them game after every game, defined what he is. It made winning a monumental celebration, and it blunted the pain of losing as just a natural part of the game.

I have no selfish motive for saying this, I am not saying he owes me anything, because it was my personal choice to be a fan, in the first place. But to this day, it is especially painful to remember watching him crash face first on the hard court’s wooden floor after that Jojo Lastimosa clothesline foul, and it is even more heartbreaking to remember watching him as a lumbering, over-the-hill veteran during his final years in the PBA.

I was loyal to the end, and it was my choice to be that way, and I swear to God my emotional investment in him has been more than generously repaid by the way he led his life on and off the court.

Today, long after the noise and glitter that come with fame have faded into the night, long after the shouting and heckling in the full-packed championship games have dissipated, long after his weary legs have lost the spring of his Skywalker days, Samboy Lim remains, and forever shall stay, a hero. He proved me right without even trying.

My family and I, along with his legion of friends and fans, are praying for his immediate and complete recovery.

 

Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.” He obtained his law and prelaw degrees from Manuel L. Quezon University and the University of Santo Tomas, respectively.

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