Coach Frankie Lim prides himself on being one of the few PBA players who played with two generations of the league's greatest stars.
"When I entered the league, I had the chance to play with veterans. I played with the same Crispa and Toyota stars that seemingly stopped everything that was happening in the world because of their games. When Alvin (Patrimonio), Samboy (Lim), Jojo Lastimosa and the others later came around, I was also able to play with them," he said in Filipino on An Eternity of Basketball by ESPN5.com's Charlie Cuna, Sid Ventura and Noel Zarate.
"I was in the middle. I played both generations," he continued. "Others didn't have that experience. I played against the best before, and I played the best of the incoming generation. Great timing. That's difficult to do."
That feat speaks more to the longevity of Lim's career, which spanned 15 seasons across six teams.
Despite brandishing a decorated amateur career that saw him win drought-busting titles with San Beda in 1977 and 1978, as well as a pair of golds on the international level with the national youth team, Lim didn't enter the league until 1982 -- a year after Chito Loyzaga, Alex Marquez and Chuck Barreiro, his teammates over at the YCO Painters in the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA), were signed ahead of him by Tanduay in the PBA.
Lim eventually landed a tryout with Tanduay and impressed coach Freddie Webb enough to earn him a deal that paid him 1,800 pesos a month -- a contract that he considered lucrative given how it was 20 times more than what he received in allowances in San Beda.
Entering the league as a 22-year-old rookie, Lim said the transition from the amateur game to the PBA was challenging.
"It wasn't easy. I went through a lot, too. I was 22 years old when I entered the PBA and I was playing against veterans -- Ramon Fernandez, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar," he said.
Lim also had his fair share of encounters with the fabled Toyota and Crispa teams before they folded in after the 1983 and '84 seasons, respectively.
"The players of Crispa and Toyota were really good. The elite players were there. That probably happened because there was no drafting. Teams were a bit uneven," noted Lim.
As a young PBA guard, the coach said Hall of Fame guard Lim Eng Beng was one of the most difficult players to contain.
"He was good at fishing fouls. He was really good," he said. "He also had an outside shot. He wasn't a leaper, but he could get to his spots. I think he was considered the most fouled player in the PBA before. You could really learn a lot from him in terms of technique."
Lim also recalled a time when Ginebra legend Robert Jaworski gave him a rough "welcome" at some point during his rookie year.
"Nagbuhol lang paa ko. Mahilig mamitik 'yun eh," he laughed. "One time I was left open under the basket when he was guarding me, and when I went up, he kicked my feet."
There would not be a recurring trend of Lim being the victim of these sort of antics, though, as he later built a reputation of standing up to highly-physical players.
"When you're playing basketball, there's always a chance a player would try to mess with you -- pull your arm or your shorts or clinch your arm. It's part of the game. But if you hurt me, that's different," he said. "I can accept everything else. But once you start hurting people, it doesn't sit well with me. So naturally, I'd fight back. I'm not going to sit there and take punches. Not in my lifetime."
"Nung PBA nung araw, 'yung mga kuya natin do'n, kapag binigyan ka tapos 'di ka bumawi, ay nako. Chibug ka kada game. Masasaktan at masasaktan ka lagi," he remarked. "Pwede ba 'yun? Basketball 'yun eh. Basketball tayo. Once you start hurting people, you have to be ready to receive some, too. Hindi pwedeng araw-araw, swerte ka."
Moving to Great Taste
Lim was able to win four of his seven career titles after moving to Great Taste in 1984. He had to go through another adjustment period there, though, as he went from playing heavy minutes with Tanduay to barely getting any playing time behind ace guard Ricky Brown.
"It felt new and different," he admitted. "I knew all the minutes were going to (Brown). In Tanduay, there were games I'd play 40 minutes and I was used to that. There weren't a lot of minutes, though I played once in a while. But that team was strong."
Frankie Lim's 'welcome to the PBA' moment
As a rookie in 1982, Frankie Lim had to go endure "welcoming shots" from the PBA's veterans.
With Lim on board and behind Brown and the likes of Arnie Tuadles, Bogs Adornado, Joy Carpio, Manny Victorino and Jimmy Manansala, Great Taste won four straight titles in two years -- from the Second All-Filipino Conference in 1984 to the All-Filipino Conference in 1985.
Great Taste just fell a title short of a Grand Slam in 1985, when a powerhouse Northern Cement team knocked them off in a playoff for a finals berth.
"(Replacement import) Cory Blackwell arrived too late. And (NCC's) Dennis Still grabbed so many rebounds. It just wasn't meant to be," he remarked.
Aside from winning a bunch of titles, Lim also had the chance to work with legend coach Baby Dalupan during his short tenure with Great Taste.
"He was well-respected in Crispa. You could hear Crispa players telling stories about their experience with Coach Baby, and he was really a disciplinarian," he said. "His combinations with players were good. It was a great experience working with a legend coach who had many championships."
On to greener pastures
An ACL injury shelved Lim just as his contract with Great Taste expired. After successfully rehabilitating his knee, Alaska acquired the guard in 1986 and gave him a home for seven solid years.
Contractually, Lim was stable. It was only the situation upstairs that wasn't.
"Alaska changed coaches every year. It was a messy situation. It felt like we were in a washing machine, just tumbling around. We couldn't get things going," he said.
The franchise shuffled coaches after Tony Vasquez's sudden passing. Cesar Jota, Nat Canson, Turo Valenzona and Bogs Adornado all had their hand at the team's reins before the Milkmen found finality with a certain rookie coach.
"I got to talk to (team owner) Fred Uytengsu. If I remember, Fred told me Tim (Cone) is his friend, a close friend," he said. "At that point, we're just hoping for somebody who could lead us in Alaska. I told Fred, 'He's your friend, why not get him?'"
Lim said Cone was fortunate enough to receive the backing of the whole team even as a young mentor.
"The team was highly supportive when he was new," he said. "Tim was also lucky to have guys like (Bong) Alvarez, (Boy) Cabahug, (Ricardo) Marata, (Yoyoy) Villamin, (and Ricky) Relosa."
It was also with this group where Lim witnessed Cone's initial struggles with the triangle offense as some established players complained about their reduced touches.
"Players had mixed reactions. It was good for me because my problem was the ball-hoggers. If they couldn't get touches, they'd complain. But in the triangle, the ball moves around," he laughed. "Our veterans didn't really react well because it was simple for them: give me the ball and go away. That was their style back in the day."
Though the results weren't great, Lim said Cone "stayed with the triangle and he shoved it down our mouths."
"The guys had to do it. Of course, you had to study where you'd be able to get your shots, where you would fit. That's what I did," he said. "The others couldn't follow because they were thinking, 'I have to let go of the ball, go to the corner for the pinch post.' For them, it didn't have any value and it was all, 'Give me a screen and I'll take care of it.'"
Under the triangle, Lim thrived and even set a record in 1991 for the most field goals made in a game without a miss.
"I had a career-high because of the triangle. I scored 33 points or something like that against Purefoods. We were running the triangle. I was able to free myself because I knew where to go," he said of his perfect game, where he went 13-for-13.
Only retired Talk 'N Text center Ali Peek (12-for-12) and San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo (13-for-14) came close to the record in recent years.
"Mahinang klase pala," Lim joked.
Turning serious, Lim said the triangle wouldn't be as successful as it was under Cone if not for Alaska's ability to recruit players that fit the mold.
"Aside from the triangle, Alaska also had good personnel. If your players suck, even if you run a square there you won't win," said Lim, noting how the Milkmen landed Lastimosa, Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins, Jeff Cariaso and Poch Juinio in later years. "Their recruitment had something to do with that team, too. It wasn't all triangle."
Lim won one title in Alaska and transferred to Purefoods in 1993.
"I think I was asking for more money. I was trying to get a bigger contract," he said of his departure from Alaska. "I told them if they couldn't give it, they should trade me instead. At the same time, Chot Reyes was hired by Purefoods. He picked me up."
The guard won two more titles once he moved to Purefoods, which was bannered by Patrimonio and Jerry Codiñera, and bolstered by key pieces in Cabahug, Glenn Capacio and Dindo Pumaren.
"It was a great experience because it was a strong team," he said. "(They had) very talented and young players, though there was a year where Abe King played for one or two conferences. Our prize for winning the championship was a trip to the United States."
Lim played his final two seasons with Formula Shell and the San Miguel Beermen before retiring and successfully delving into coaching.
Lim's top five teammates
While Lim managed to play with two generations of PBA stars, only one from his older years made the cut when asked about his most favorite teammates during his heyday.
Leading his list are guards Mike Bilbao and Ricky Brown, with Patrimonio, King and Adornado rounding out his five.
Brown and Adornado, specifically, left their mark on Lim because of their incredible shooting.
"Ibang klase 'yung shooting nung batang 'yun. Grabe. Talagang mapapa-nganga ka," he said of Adornado. "And Ricky, wow. They're excellent. Their forms, release, rhythm - excellent. You were really going to idolize them."