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Sunday, January 3, 2016

LIM ENG BENG (1941-2015)

Today, we lost another basketball hero. Lim Eng Beng, perhaps one of the greatest clutch players in PHL basketball history, passed on at the age of 64 after a bout of liver cancer. 

Many old-time fans would remember LEB's initial collegiate exploits as a Dela Salle Green Archer who led the Taft-based squad to two NCAA championships. He also continues to hold the NCAA record for most number of points in a game with 55 points, a testament to his prolific offensive ways. We have to remember that this was prior to the advent of the three-point shot, so making 55 points was quite an accomplishment back then.

He played 12 non-consecutive seasons in the PBA. He first played for the Carrier Weathermakers and was the star player of that team alongside Alfonso "Boy" Mora, Jimmy Mariano, the original ironman Jimmy Noblezada, wily point guard Joy Dionisio, and center Genny Lucindo. 

What many won't know is that LEB is perhaps Tommy Manotoc's favorite player of all time. Manotoc, himself a DLSU alumnus, almost always wanted LEB to be part of his teams in the PBA. In 1976, Manotoc,
then team manager for the U/Tex Weavers, acquired him from Carrier after the first conference. LEB became a regular fixture of the Weavers / Wranglers, and was their best local player, helping the franchise become the first team in league history to win a championship not named Crispa or Toyota. 

In 1982, when Tommy Manotoc left U/Tex to coach the San Miguel Beermen, LEB wasn't far behind. He moved to the Beermen camp in the 3rd conference of that season in a trade with another DLSU stalwart, Alex Tan. 

In 1983, Manotoc was taken in by Danny Floro to mentor the Crispa Redmanizers that just reeled from a winless 1982 season, taking over the coaching job of Baby Dalupan. It took Manotoc a year to reacquire LEB from SMB, and LEB helped the Redmanizers win its last championship in franchise history in the 1984 All Filipino. Manotoc, who didn't finish the All Filipino because of health issues, turned over his coaching job to his able assistant, Narciso Bernardo, who piloted the Redmanizers to the title.

LEB then had a one-year hiatus and didn't play in the PBA. He resurfaced in 1986 when Manotoc's buddy, Andy Jao, now team manager of the Manila Beer Brewmasters, signed him to a contract. That ultimately became his last season with the PBA, a very fruitful one that led to his much-deserved slot in the PBA Top 25 players of all time. 

How do I remember LEB as a player? He was one of the deadliest perimeter shooters of his time, and can shoot anywhere within 18 feet from the basket. But what reminds me of LEB the most is his ability to deceive his defender and draw the foul while in the act of shooting by faking his opponent off, and then take a shot when his defender is on the descent. And since LEB is one of the most accurate FT shooters ever, that foul against him was worth two points easy. LEB, being an extremely clutch player with a strong mental approach to the game, can make those FT's even at the most crucial juncture of the game without feeling so much pressure, a testament to his steely nerves. I rank LEB as perhaps player with the second best pump fake of all time, just next to former U/Tex teammate William "Bogs" Adornado.

LEB was so talented an offensive player that he often found himself being guarded by the most notable defenders of his era. From Robert Jaworski to Joy Dionisio to Freddie Webb, LEB faced them all. Crispa fans "feared" LEB so much and was regarded as the face of the "contrapelo," which U/Tex was to Crispa when Manotoc was the Wranglers coach. He wasn't athletic, didn't have the hops and speed, but he had the smarts, the wily moves and the deceptive fakes to get his offense going.

You will be missed, Lim Eng Beng! Godspeed!

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