PBA great Samboy Lim; 61

To the skies, where he once walked: PBA great Samboy Lim; 61

/ 05:10 AM December 25, 2023

Samboy Lim was honored as one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest in April 2000.

Samboy Lim was honored as one of the PBA’s 25 Greatest in April 2000. —INQUIRER PHOTO

One of the greatest players to ever take off on the basketball court passed on Saturday night.

Avelino “Samboy” Lim, the man they called “Skywalker,” was 61.


He left behind a basketball legacy very few could match, one peppered with highlight reels.


“He will surely be missed by the basketball fans who loved him because of high-flying, acrobatic brand of basketball,” said Norman Black, who was both Lim’s former teammate and former coach.

He also left behind stories that people will retell for ages to come.

READ: PBA, NCAA mourn death of ‘true basketball legend’ Samboy Lim

Among them: Lim had just entered PhilSports Arena after a UAAP doubleheader almost two decades ago preparing to play a pickup game with friends when someone approached the PBA great without hesitation, asking for an autograph.

It was one of many Lim had obliged in a career that dropped jaws as often as he dropped buckets.

But for the young fan, who lingered in the arena after witnessing a pair of collegiate matches, it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

“You could hear the slow but escalating roar of the crowd, the audible as well as contained excitement that Samboy Lim was coming into the game,” veteran sportscaster Sev Sarmenta wrote on social media.


He also left behind families and friends—and a hole in their hearts.

Among those who surrounded the star in his final moments at Medical City were former wife Darlene Berberabe and daughter Jamie Lim and close friend and teammate Allan Caidic.

Other friends and family bid farewell through a video conference.

Collapsed in 2014

Samboy Lim

Samboy Lim

The basketball great had been under medical care since he collapsed at an exhibition game in 2014 and subsequently endured a five-week coma.

But even as his recovery was slow, a lot of people were rooting for him to pull through. After all, his playing career was marked by a resilience that allowed him to bounce back from several injuries in an 11-year career spent with San Miguel Beer.

And no matter the risk his gravity-defying moves created, Lim always played like tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed.

“His tolerance to pain is incredible,” his Letran teammate Tino Pinat said in 2016. “Even if he had underwent multiple operations, he kept playing hard. Samboy didn’t want people to say that he’s already past his prime.”

And those daredevil moves won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Perhaps never.

News of his death on late Saturday left those fans recalling Lim’s exploits, particularly performing his one-handed dunks, and acrobatic moves with reckless abandon while representing the Philippines in one tournament after another and donning the colors of the Beermen as a pro with his signature high socks.

The late legendary play-by-play man Joe Cantada said he often also referred to him as “The Dragon” while some combined his monikers to call Lim “The Skywalking Dragon.”

But he was always the Skywalker.

“Samboy soared to great heights with his remarkable skills, electrifying the court and captivating fans with his unparalleled talent,” the PBA said in a statement shortly after Lim’s death was announced on his official social media page.

“His all-out play and boundless heart were not just attributes on the basketball court; they were a testament to the passion and dedication he brought to the sport. Samboy’s legacy spans generations, contributing significantly to the popularity and growth of the PBA,” the league added.

It was at Letran where opportunities opened for Lim, who led the Knights to three NCAA titles under coach Larry Albano.

Coached by Jacobs

The NCAA also wrote a heartfelt tribute to Lim.

“The NCAA joins the basketball community in remembering the life of Samboy Lim, one of the greatest Filipino basketball players of our time,” said NCAA Season 99 Management Committee chair Paul Supan.

Lim also became part of the famed Northern Consolidated program of the late Ron Jacobs, the architect of the country’s vaunted national program in the ’80s who passed on eight years ago, on Dec. 24.

The NCC program was aimed at bringing the Philippines back to prominence on the Asian scene. Players like Lim, Caidic and another good friend, Hector Calma, meshed with naturalized players Dennis Still, Jeff Moore and, for some time, Chip Engelland.

Their success overseas eventually bore fruit with a title win in the 1985 Asian Basketball Confederation Championship at Kuala Lumpur.

The team disbanded a year later, and Lim soon took his talents to the PBA, joining some of his fellow NCC teammates to turn San Miguel into a dynasty.

Under Black, the Beermen eventually added Ramon Fernandez and completed the rare Grand Slam in 1989. Overall, Lim won all of his nine PBA titles at San Miguel, the last two while being joined by his good buddy Caidic.

“He was a good friend and a great teammate. He was also one of the main reasons why the SMB basketball team was so successful in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Black, who coached Lim until 1996.

Fans who gathered at Philsports, called ULTRA at the time of his career, and Cuneta Astrodome witnessed Lim exhibit countless amazing moves that some of which were unearthed for current and future generations to see on social media.

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Lim was a deserved inclusion to the PBA’s 25 and 40 Greatest Players lists and was the first winner of the Sportsmanship Award in 1993. The PBA has since named the award in his honor.

TAGS: obituary, PBA, Samboy Lim

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