TODAY is Labor Day and it’s only fitting to give tribute to the working-class, including PBA players who came back from scary injuries and returned to have a successful career.
There was a time when knee injuries were considered as career-threatening for athletes. A series of injuries could lead to slowing down the athletes or worse, send them to early retirement.
FoxSports.ph is taking a look back at three inspiring stories of players who came back from career-threatening injuries and defied the odds to continue playing the game they love.
Bogs Adornado — Adornado was sidelined for more than three years when he was playing for the fabled Crispa Redmanizers while at his peak of his career. He won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards until he was sidelined in the second conference of the 1976 season and came back only in the 1979 All-Filipino, where was instrumental in the team’s championship run against their fierce nemesis, Toyota Tamaraws.
But even after making his return, there were doubts whether Adornado could still continue what he’s capable of doing – one that made him one of the most deadliest gunners the league has ever produced.
In 1980, Adornado was traded to U-Tex and there, the sweet shooting forward from University of Santo Tomas was able to put on one of his finest seasons.
He would become an integral part of the Wranglers successful run in the 1980 Open Conference.
Adornado was back in peak form during that season and he, along with Lim Eng Beng, Glenn McDonald and Aaron James, would enable the Wranglers to pull off one of the greatest comeback victories in a championship series. Down by four in the last 16 seconds, Adonado and co. would engineer a comeback, force the overtime and helped them win in the greatest championship game ever played.
There was one game that season against San Miguel Beer in late 1980 where he set a record-tying 64 point – matching the record previously set by Danny Florencio in 1977 and one which stood until Bong Alvarez and Allan Caidic shattered the mark with their own single-game best performances.
The following season, Adornado would win his third MVP award, completing his comeback just when everybody wrote him off.
In 1983, Adornado would be traded to Great Taste Coffee and he would become part of the squad that started a new dynasty in the mid-1980s by winning two championships in 1984. He joined Shell Azodrin the following season and saw action until the end of the 1987 season with Hills Brothers Coffee.
Adornado retired as one of the top scorers in league history. He ended his career as the eighth all-time best scorer with 11,970 points and second best in all-time scoring averages with 20.4 points, next to Ricardo Brown. To date, the Comeback Player Of The Year award is named after him.
Terry Saldaña – When one speaks about the scariest injuries in the PBA, the one that Terry Saldaña experienced would stick to the minds of long-time PBA fans.
During a game in 1987, Saldana twisted his knee and was sidelined for the next few seasons. Although he would return to Hills Brothers in 1988, he was harnessed more by head coach Yeng Guiao when he was picked up by expansion team, Pop Cola.
Guiao had apprehensions of picking up Saldaña, considering the scary situations he went through.
“Parehas nyang tuhod nagka-ACL injury,” Guiao told FoxSports.ph, recalling how he had his reservations in giving the veteran forward an opportunity. “But because he was so talented, iniisip ko rin na somehow, mao-overshadow ng talent niya yung mga pinagdaanan niyang injuries.”
Saldana burst onto the PBA scene in 1982, coming out from Letran straight from high school and joined the Toyota Corollas, where he won championships.
He joined Gilbey’s Gin in 1983 during the turbulent years of the Delta Motors Corporation, the mother company of Toyota at that time.
When Robert Jaworski assumed the role as playing coach in 1985, Saldaña became the premier power forward until he got injured in 1987.
But Saldaña got a new lease in life when he was taken in by the RFM Corporation owned-Pop Cola and Guiao was more than willing to take the gamble.
“For a young team like ours, we know that we’re going to need a talented frontliner who can match up with the likes of Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Yoyoy Villamin and other young players like Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras and Jerry Codiñera among others,” added Guiao. “So I gambled in getting Terry.”
Saldana became part of Guiao’s championship teams in 1992 Third Conference and 1993 Commissioner’s Cup. He would also play for Shell Turbochargers for three seasons before joining Jaworski anew at the Gordon’s Gin Boars.
“If there was one hardworking player I used to play with, it is Terry Saldaña,” recalled Jayvee Gayoso, a former PBA star at Ginebra and now working as an analyst during the MPBL games. “I remember him grabbing 20 or so rebounds during Game 6 of our championship run against Alaska. He was practically everywhere.”
Saldaña would return to play for Guiao as an aging veteran forward to provide leadership to a young Batang Red Bull team in 2000 when he was already 42 years old.
“Si Terry hindi yan nagwi-weights yan, but he has the natural ability and because he was so talented, nakakasabay talaga siya kahit na sa mas bata sa kanya. When we got him at Red Bull, he was already at the twilight of his career, pero may role pa rin siya nag ginagampanan sa amin,” added Guiao.
With two ACL injuries on both knees, Saldaña was able to return, win multiple championships and prolong his playing years to 13 more seasons.
Samboy Lim — No body has been as battered an abused than that of “The Skywalker” Samboy Lim.
Throughout his career, his number of injuries were in a race with the number of accomplishments he had individually and as a member of the fabled San Miguel team.
His devil-may-care attitude made him more endeared to the fans. He could glide himself in midair, suspend his shot and come up with a spectacular play that usually sent the crowd into a deafening roar.
At a time when the illegal defense was still applied, Lim benefited from it the most. San Miguel would just clear one side for “The Skywalker” and allow him to operate. His crossover moves and his ability to hang in midair before taking a shot were also truly a joy to watch.
One scary moment happened in 1989 when he drove hard to the basket and was met by three Purefoods defenders up in the air. He collided with one of them and crashed to the floor, hitting his head and shoulder in the process. Blood few over Lim’s eyebrow and was brought into the hospital shortly after.
Throughout his career, he had a number of injuries, but it didn’t slow him down much. His 42-point output in the 1990 All-Star Game was the most points scored by any player for a long time until it was shattered by Dylan Ababou.
Lim was part of many San Miguel Beer champion teams , including the one that bagged the Grand Slam in 1989. He is now a PBA Hall of Famer.
Although he always kept himself in shape even after retirement, he was brought to the hospital in 2014 when he collapsed during a game with the Legends. He collapsed while doing some stretching. The PBA legend is now at home recovering from aneurism.