Jaypee Mendoza was a solid player for Phoenix back in 2019.
A year later, the 6-foot-3 forward was no longer in the Philippine Basketball Association. Yes, he was not part of the Phoenix Super LPG team that went in the Clark bubble.
So what happened?
Well, Mendoza was forced to leave the game because of something beyond his control.
1 in 1000
After Phoenix’s grueling semis encounter with San Miguel during the 2019 Philippine Cup, Mendoza had a routine operation to remove bone spurs in his knee.
The timetable for his recovery was just three months.
“Everything went well at nag-resume ako sa practice mga bandang August, pati tune-up games,” Mendoza recalled.
“One night, nagising ako na parang lower back ko sobrang sakit.“
It was an unusual yet familiar pain — a crippling kind of pain.
By the next day, he could no longer stand-up, falling every time he tried. With him only having four members in his household — him, his wife, and two kids — Jaypee called his wife to bring him to a hospital.
“Akala ko something sa kidney. Nagpunta ako ng UST, nagpa-check ako. Okay naman daw. Nagtaka ako. The next day, hindi na talaga ako nakatayo. Namaga pa paa ko tapos may discoloration pa na nangyari sa legs ko,” he continued.
“Tapos sabi ko sa wife ko, ‘Anong nangyayari sa’kin?'”
The pain would intensify over the next few days. Already worried, he asked for help from Phoenix’s staff to bring him to Cardinal Santos in San Juan.
“Nandoon na ako sa loob ng ER, talagang hindi na ko makahinga kasi sobrang sakit na talaga ng lower back ko. Hindi rin nila alam kung ano nangyayari. Halos tatlong beses ako sinaksakan ng anethesia. Gusto nila dalhin na ko sa ICU. Nung pinaturukan na ko, na himasmasan,” he narrated.
“Doon lang nila nalaman na multiple blood clots. ‘Yung veins na pabalik sa upper body ko puro barado.”
Apparently, he was suffering from deep vein thrombosis — a condition that can be life-threatening if not detected earlier.
He was the one in 1000. But it was not the first time he experienced this.
The First Attack
The native of Tarlac felt excited to get back on the court. The Red Lions were coming off a championship campaign in NCAA Season 86.
However, he was diagnosed with DVT prior to the start of the season.
“Nagka-bloodclot din na nag-shoot up sa lungs ko, parang kay Chris Bosh. Nung nangyari ‘yun, nag-stop ako maglaro noon kasi nag-blood thinner ako,” he shared.
He was forced to sit out his sophomore year, but worked his way back to the Red Lions during the summer.
But before getting physically fit, he had to overcome the mental aspect of being sidelined.
“Depressed ako nun kasi second year ko pa lang noon e. Gusto ko pa naman mag-PBA nun. Ginawa ko, sumunod lang ako sa doctor noon. Nakabalik ako ng 2012. Nagka-collateral daw ‘yung veins ko kaya nakalaro ako ulit,” he said.
“Nangyari ulit ito nung 2019.”
Mendoza eventually returned to the Red Lions, winning three more crowns before entering the PBA. He was drafted as the 20th overall pick by Alaska in 2015.
Road to Recovery
Mendoza was confined in Cardinal Santos for one week. And he was genuinely bedridden — he couldn’t walk.
According to him, he felt numb from the waist down and that both of his knees were turning darker and darker by the day.
Then, the doctor broke to him the news that he should stop playing.
“Nag-flashback sa’kin ‘yung nangyari nung nasa San Beda pa ako, pero ngayon may family na ko.
“Sa part ko mahirap tanggapin. Parang natigil mundo ko nung sinabi na stop muna ko sa basketball. Pero parang mamatay na ko noon e,” he shared.
But instead of asking the Higher Being why this happened to him, he chose to feel grateful.
“Imbes na kwestyunin ko ano nangyari, nagpasalamat ako na binigyan ako ng chance ulit. Lahat ng nangyari, binaliktad ko ‘yung negative into positive. Inisip ko na may plan Siya para sa akin.”
Finding His True Purpose
While Phoenix Super LPG was in the PBA bubble, Mendoza was fighting his own battles with constant rehabs and therapy sessions.
For their part, the Dennis Uy-owned franchise still honored the remainder of his contract and more.
Phoenix even extended an invitation if he could join them in the bubble but, “Choice ko talaga mag-stop ngayon kasi before nung bubble, nakausap ko rin ‘yung Phoenix management at sabi ko hindi pa kaya ng katawan ko.”
Moreover, he found life beyond the hardcourt.
At just the young age of 30, this made him realize the importance of being with his family.
Right now, he and his wife Precious have focused on their businesses. Mendoza invested in apartment rentals while also helping out with his wife’s farm in the province.
He has become a better father as well, growing closer to his two kids.
“Okay lang kung makabalik ako or hindi. If hindi, there’s life after basketball. Hindi lang naman basketball ‘yung buhay ko. Nandito pa rin ‘yung family ko. Hindi ko rin matatanggi na ito ‘yung trabaho ko e. Gusto ko ‘yung trabaho na ito e. Pero nakikita ko na ‘yung reality ng buhay ngayon,” he said.
“Mahirap lang tanggalin talaga. Tuwing nanonood ako ng PBA, naiinggit ako e. Ang hirap tanggapin noon pero wala na ‘kong choice e. Hindi ako puwede ma-stuck sa ganun.”
Mendoza has also been religiously training with Aldo Panlilio to regain the power in his legs.
And it’s because he is not fully closing his doors on a return.
“Mga one year and a half na pero ngayon lang ako puwedeng tumakbo at magbuhat. Nagte-take pa rin ako ng anti-coagulant. Natutunaw naman lahat ng clots paunti-unti,” he said.
“Lagi rin ako kinakamusta ni Coach Topex [Robinson]. Sinasabi ko na pagbigyan ako ng chance ni Lord ulit maglaro, babalik ako sa kanila.”
Just like in 2011, he knows that anything is possible.