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Why I Play series: Basketballer Kelvin Lim

“Why I Play” is a fortnightly column showcasing the stories of people who enjoy playing sports. Want to see your sport featured? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter.

Kelvin Lim is one of only a handful of Singaporean basketballers who can dunk. Having started playing the sport at 13, he has had the fast track to a professional basketball career, making it to the Singapore Slingers roster at age 19 in 2015. The 1.9 metre-tall forward has also won accolades such as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award at the 2015 National Basketball League final.

However, he was dealt a couple of career-threatening injuries, suffering back-to-back meniscus tears that ruled him out of the 2017 SEA Games. After a long rehabilitation, he is back to enjoying his basketball and recently led Temasek Polytechnic to the 2018 Polytechnic-ITE (POL-ITE) Basketball Championship title.

Kelvin Lim was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2015 National Basketball League final. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kelvin Lim was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2015 National Basketball League final. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Q: How did you get involved in this sport?

A: I started playing basketball when I was 13. At that point of time, the main reason was to be able to get along well with my classmates, as the majority of them loved the sport. We hung out every day, and we would play basketball until 10pm every weekday.

Which muscle groups are most involved in this sport? Which parts of your body ache the most after a basketball match or training and why?

Considering my height, one of my biggest strengths compared to other tall players is my athleticism. I can run fast and jump high. Hence, my quads and calves are usually the ones that ache.

When did you first know that you could dunk?

When I was 15. When I started playing basketball, I could barely touch the board. But along the way, my height really shot up. I think it’s special, because a lot of people in Singapore can’t dunk.

During games, whenever there’s a fast break, I just go for it. Initially, I kept missing (the dunks) during games, and I would get nervous about dunking. Right now, I realise that it’s something special – to showcase myself, to get the team hyped up and to get the audience hyped up too. It still depends on the game. If it’s very close, I won’t go for it unless I’m wide open.

Kelvin Lim is one of a few Singapore basketballers who are able to dunk the ball. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kelvin Lim is one of a few Singapore basketballers who are able to dunk the ball. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Tell me the biggest misconceptions people have of the basketball scene in Singapore.

I think the biggest misconception people have is that professional basketball would not bring players far because players have to retire early, and that the maximum a player can go is until the age of 35.

However, after players retire, they can either take up coaching or sports-related work as their portfolio would be strong.

In playing this sport, what has been your most memorable experience?

The most memorable moment I had throughout my playing career would be winning the MVP (Most Valuable Player) for the 2015 National Basketball League final. I was the youngest player to win the MVP.

What has been your most heartbreaking experience?

The most heartbreaking experience that I had throughout my basketball experience would be the back-to-back left meniscus tear that resulted in me missing the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

My first meniscus tear happened when I was training with the Slingers. Mitch (Mitchell Folkoff, former Slingers player) hit my knee while he was defending me and my knee gave way. It was a freak accident.

The second time round was in preparation for the 2017 SEA Games. After my operation (for my first meniscus tear), I did rehab for four to five months and I rushed back to the court. I never played at the SEA Games before, so I really wanted to play at that point of time.

I just rushed back even though I knew that I wasn’t 100 per cent ready. I just continued training even when I was limping. So during a scrimmage, when I was doing a spin move, my knee gave way again.

Kelvin Lim (in black jersey) suffered consecutive meniscus tears on his left knee, which caused him to miss out of representing Singapore at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kelvin Lim (in black jersey) suffered consecutive meniscus tears on his left knee, which caused him to miss out of representing Singapore at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Was there a time you felt like walking away from the sport? What made you stay?

I had never thought of stopping until the second time I teared my meniscus.

I almost gave up the sport that I love. I went home and cried and cried. I was crying at OCBC Arena when I got the injury. I was shouting, “I’m done, I’m really done this time round.”

Because it’s really a hard time coming back after the first injury. I had rehab almost every day for four months. Every day, I went to Sport Singapore and did my rehab. It’s not easy, really.

What motivated me to continue were the people around me, especially Slingers coach Neo Beng Siang and general manager Michael Johnson. They told me to focus on my rehabilitation and that they would be waiting for my return, and that really motivated me to make my comeback.

What is the most difficult aspect of being a professional basketball player?

The most difficult aspect of being a professional basketball player is to maintain the image of myself, especially when I am at basketball-related events. I need to make sure every single word that comes out of my mouth is appropriate.

Kelvin Lim has learnt not to take things for granted, especially after his serious knee injuries. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Kelvin Lim has learnt not to take things for granted, especially after his serious knee injuries. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

What life lessons has this sport taught you?

Basketball has taught me to be appreciative, and to never take things for granted.

Right now my viewpoint is that, whenever you are injured, you don’t rush to come back. Make sure that you are 100 per cent ready, or get clearance from the doctor, then you come back.

Because I rarely had injuries in my 10 years of playing basketball, I did not do warm up before training. I thought that I wouldn’t get injured, I took this for granted.

So after I got injured, now I know that every single little warm up or cool down stretch is very important to perform well, to prolong your playing career.

I would like to use this chance to thank the people that were there for me whenever I needed them and would like to shout out to HoopsFactorySG and UnderArmourSG for the constant support even when I was injured.

For a young athlete who wants to play professionally and sign for the Slingers, what advice would you give him?

Discipline and attitude is one of the key factors they need to take note of.

Frankly speaking, there are tons of good players out there, and if you want to play for the Slingers, what makes you different would be these two components.

Can you tell me in one sentence why you love this sport?

Basketball is not just a sport for me, but a lifestyle that encourages selflessness and respect, and this is why I play.

Why I Play series: Basketball Kelvin Lim. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)
Why I Play series: Basketball Kelvin Lim. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)