3 inspiring PBA stories of players who returned from career-threatening injuries

Greek Hero scores 41 for winning Bucks

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.










Five of the most heroic moments in PBA history

Greek Hero scores 41 for winning Bucks

As the nation remembers our heroes celebrating our National Heroes Day, the PBA is also marking its 44th anniversary as Asia’s first professional basketball league.

Today, FOXSports.ph look back at five of the most memorable heroic moments in PBA history. While there were quite a number of them, we’ve decided to pick five and we hope our readers could relate to our list.

Jaworski and Fernandez: End Of The Feud (1989 All-Star Game) — For five years since there break up following the disbandment of Toyota, Robert Jaworski and Mon Fernandez, two of the most well-loved players in PBA history, was able to develop a rivalry of their own, a rivalry that turned into a bad blood on and off the court.

Jaworski became the first local playing coach, guiding Ginebra to a championship right in his second year as coach of the team.

Fernandez, on the other hand, would become the leader of the team which bought the old Toyota franchise, Beer Hausen which later on turned to Manila Beer and El Presidente would win his second MVP award in 1984.

When Fernandez got traded to Tanduay the following season, the two would figure in their first ever finals encounter. Fernandez and the Rhummasters would prevail over the Gin Kings.

In 1988, Fernandez would become playing coach of Purefoods, a glamour team which acquired the franchise of Tanduay, and brought in an influx of young, talented players from the amateur ranks like Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codiñera, and Glenn Capacio among others.

Fernandez, who would later relinquish his coachng duties to Chris Calilan, and Jaworski, would meet in the finals again in the 1988 All-Filipino marred by controversies. The 6-foot-4 center was accused of game fixing by Purefoods president Rene Buhain and following a dismal showing in Game 1, he was ordered to be benched throughout the series won by the Añejo Rhum 65ers, the brand carried by La Tondeña during that time.

In 1989, the PBA has decided to institute the All-Star Game and for the first time since 1983, Jaworski and Fernandez would team up for the Veterans team coached by Baby Dalupan where they went up against the young turks composed of the finest rookies and sophomores at that time.

Down to the final play, Dalupan would set up a play with Jaworski doing the in bound and Fernandez would be the recipient. Fernandez drove the baseline and put up a nifty under the basket shot against the outstretched arms of Benjie Paras. The shot went in as the crowd went into a deafening roar. But what made them crazier came in the next few seconds as Dalupan would order Jaworski and Fernandez to shake hands, ending a cold war that lasted for five years.

With the feud over and done, Jaworski would make Fernandez the team captain in the first ever all-pro baskeball team sent to the Asian Games in 1990.

The Most Memorable 16 Seconds (1980 Open Conference) – This would be remembered by old-time basketball fans as the most memorable 16 seconds in the history of the PBA.

Trailing by four, Aaron James, one of the imports playing for U-Tex, had an easy bucket with 11 seconds to go to push the Wranglers within striking distance. Toyota sued for time, but in the next play, Glenn McDonald would intercept the ball and would be fouled in the process by Francis Arnaiz. The NBA veteran, who also played hero for the Boston Celtics during the 1976 Finals Series against the Phoenix Suns, sank two pressure packed free throws to send the game to overtime.

In OT, the Wranglers went to work led by Bogs Adornado, who was acquired by the Wranglers during the elimination round from Crispa, Lim Eng Beng and McDonald, giving the U-Tex its second championship under Tommy Manotoc in what was regarded as one of the most unforgettable finals moments in PBA history.

Rudy Distrito’s Hail Marry Shot (1991 First Conference) – A Hail Marry Shot that looked like a travelling at first glance. Nevertheless, we cannot take away Rudy Distrito’s heroic moment that capped Ginebra San Miguel’s dramatic run to the championship by beating Formula Shell in a thrilling and epic seven game series.

Ginebra became the first team to overcome a 1-3 deficit in the finals series and what made it more dramatic was the way it ended.

Distrito drove hard to the basket, had to twist himself up in mid-air and defied the defense of Benjie Paras, one of the bets shot blockers in league history. The shot went as pandemonium broke loose inside the ULTRA (now known as the Philsports Arena).

To many fans, particularly the Ginebra diehards, that was one unforgettable moments and Distrito, for all the troubles he caused in his PBA career, was the unlikely hero.

Birth of Never-Say-Die (1985 Reinforced Conference) — Rabid Ginebra fans would say this is the birth of Never-Say-Die.

Robert Jaworski, playing coach of Ginebra San Miguel, was accidentally elbowed by Jeff Moore of guest team Northern Consolidated during second quarter of their game on October 22, 1985.

He had to be brought to Medical City, the closest hospital at the ULTRA and had to be taken at the Emergency Room. His upper lip had to be stitched up to close it up.

Then, the unthinkable happened : Jaworski returned to action with a bandaged lip and inspired the Gin Kings to a come-from-behind win over the eventual champion, guest team NCC.

Not only did The Big J inspired the Gin Kings to victory, but it was also served as a source of inspiration to every working class not to give up whatever adversity it may come. The moment only grew to Jaworski’s legend as he would become the embodiment of Ginebra’s never-say-die spirit, a philosophy which the modern day Gin Kings still uphold.

It’s A Beeracle (2016 Philippine Cup) – No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit. But for those San Miguel Beer fans who stayed on in the last few minutes of the fourth period just when everybody had written off the Beermen for dead, it was just the beginning of witnessing what greatness was all about.

There, they saw San Miguel Beer on the brink of defeat, fighting back in hope of staying alive and keeping its conference campaign going.

The Beermen won Game 4, denying the Alaska Aces of a sweep, but when San Miguel won again in Game 5 to trim the series deficit to 3-2, a momentum was building up and even the winningest team in franchise history is sensing history could be done.

With an ailing June Mar Fajardo suited up, the Beermen were able to complete their dramatic run as Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter was able to pick up the slack. Even veteran centers Yancy de Ocampo and Jay-R Reyes, who held the forth while Fajardo was recovering from injury, did their share of contributing in small but valuable way for the Beermen.