Bong Alvarez was still a wide-eyed high schooler when he witnessed Samboy Lim throw down a 360-degree dunk.
He was left in awe of what he had just seen. And that became the moment where he began looking up to one of Philippine basketball’s greatest — and of course, most exciting — players.
“Si Samboy ‘yung nag-impluwensya sa akin,” said Alvarez during his Hoop Coaches International Webinar session hosted by Blackwater Elite alternate governor Ariel Vanguardia recently.
“Siya ‘yung tinignan ko eh, na ang sarap siguro ng feeling ng ganun ano, umiikot bago mag-dunk. Three-sixty so talagang na-engganyo ako,” the man dubbed as “Mr. Excitement” added.
“Lagi ko siyang iniisip, na kahit sa panaginip iniisip ko. Ine-envision ko na magkalaban kaming dalawa, dinakdakan ko raw siya, dinakdakan niya ako, ganun. Ganun ako nung bata.”
That time, Alvarez was still playing high school ball for the University of Manila Hawklets. Meanwhile, Lim was already strutting his stuff in the college ranks with Colegio de San Juan de Letran in the NCAA.
“Nung high school ako, si Samboy, college na sa Letran. Nung time na ‘yun, dun pa lang ako nagsisimula,” the now 51-year-old said.
He was such a big fan of the 1984 NCAA Most Valuable Player, to the point that he remembers bringing him up in certain discussions — that, even though the topic was centered around the PBA.
“Nung araw, sa Quiapo, siyempre sa amin topic lagi ‘yan — Toyota-Crispa, [Robert] Jaworski, eto. Ako, lagi kong sinisingit, sabi ko “pag nakita niyo ‘yung player ng Letran, 5’11” lang pero umiikot muna sa ere bago mag-dunk’. Walang naniniwala,” Alvarez recounted, smiling.
“Kasi at that time, sinong magti-360 na Pilipinong ganung kaliit? Ayaw nilang maniwala.”
Alvarez even proudly shared that he did not miss Lim’s games with Letran, sometimes walking from Quiapo all the way to the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Vito Cruz just to watch his idol.
“High school kasi ako pinanonood ko lagi sa Letran. Wala akong pinalagpas na laro ng Letran mula nung nandoon si Samboy. Talagang lahat ng laro ng Letran, nandudun ako,” he said.
“Minsan, nilalakad ko lang Quiapo hanggang Rizal Memorial para lang makanood ng NCAA. Sa bleachers lang ako nanonood. Ganun ko kaano si Samboy nun.”
Alvarez would go on to play in the NCAA in 1985, following his recruitment by San Sebastian College. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a chance to face Lim there since the latter had exhausted his playing years.
“Nakakatuwa nga kasi minumura ko pa ‘yung mga player ng San Sebastian dahil nga Letran ako eh, Samboy Lim eh,” recalled the two-time NCAA champion with a chuckle.
“Pero, naging teammate ko pa ‘yung mga bumabantay kay Samboy non. Nakakatuwa.”
But they would finally meet each other years later in the PBA, with “The Skywalker” then a superstar already with the San Miguel Beer, whom he helped achieve the Grand Slam in 1989.
Some say that your idols could become your rivals, but that was not the case for Alvarez, who up to this day still owns the league’s second-highest scoring output among locals with 71 points.
His admiration towards Lim — with whom he actually became good friends — has never faded.
“Kaya hanggang nag-PBA ako, hindi ko… Actually, ‘yung ibang mga kaibigan ko, sinasabi nila ‘dapat ‘di mo sinasabi sa interview ‘yan’ dahil siyempre sasabihin nila didito sila sa original kesa sa Xerox,” he said.
“Sabi ko, hindi. Eh utang na loob ko rin talaga — isa sa pinagkaka-utangan ko ng loob kung bakit ako naging player si Samboy, dahil siya ‘yung tiningnan ko talaga.”
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