ABL Finals 2019

Through the pain, Ng stars outside the arc, in the paint

Singapore Slingers' Ng Han Bin giving his all against CLS Knights Indonesia in Game 3 of their Asean Basketball League Finals in Surabaya. The Slingers lead 2-1 in the best-of-five series. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Singapore Slingers' Ng Han Bin giving his all against CLS Knights Indonesia in Game 3 of their Asean Basketball League Finals in Surabaya. The Slingers lead 2-1 in the best-of-five series. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Sport is prone to hyperbole, but when Singapore Slingers forward Ng Han Bin says basketball is a matter of life and death, and he is playing every game like it is his last, there is no hint of exaggeration.

After all, this is a man with just one functioning kidney - the other failed when he was three - and an athlete who has had to pile on the painkillers to deal with the aches from a catalogue of injuries to his knees, quadriceps, Achilles, heel and hips.

Ng, 30, told The Straits Times: "The pain I'm enduring is taking a toll on my body. But I don't want to look back on my career and know I didn't give it my all."

No wonder he is playing like a man possessed as the Slingers make another deep run into the Asean Basketball League (ABL) play-offs. He has played his part, averaging 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 three-pointers. Those numbers were 4.8, 2.1 and 1.3 respectively in the regular season.

In the two ABL Finals wins against CLS Knights Indonesia, he scored a total of 22 points, making six treys from 12 attempts and collecting 11 rebounds.

If they beat the Knights in Game 4 tomorrow, the Slingers will win their first ABL championship. And Ng reckons that would be the perfect end to his Slingers career.

He said: "There was a time I was taking painkillers four times a week. Now it's down to twice a week or one before a game.

ALL OR NOTHING

There was a time I was taking painkillers four times a week. Now it's down to twice a week or one before a game.

NG HAN BIN, Singapore Slingers forward, on fighting against pain so he will have no regrets he did not do his best at the end of his career.

"So, each game I play carries a risk as the painkillers could affect my kidney, and I have only one. As much as I want to play, and play well, I don't want to lose my life.

"I was already about to quit in 2016 but I was injured for half a season and the pain of losing (the Finals) and not contributing spurred me to press on. I am comforted my hard work is paying off and if this is my last season, I'm going all out."

Ng's dedication is evident. Since he returned from a left medial collateral ligament injury in February, he has been spending 12 hours a day doing gym work and individual and team training.

Ng is also playing for a greater good. He plays every game in remembrance of Slingers fan Nickson Yee, who died of leukaemia in 2017 when he was just 15. Ng also sports a shaved head in support of his friends who have been diagnosed with cancer.

"I want to show that kids are never too little to make a difference, and they have had an influence in my life," said Ng, who was inspired by his mother's love and care for ill relatives, and volunteers for Diamonds and the Ruffs, a programme that uses pet therapy to encourage children with cancer or blood disorder.

"Nickson's favourite number was 30 because of Stephen Curry's jersey number and one of my goals is to score that many points in a game (his personal best is 22). Even if I never get to 30, the target has achieved its purpose in terms of never being satisfied.

"Through my volunteer work, I got to know many kids who would become supportive Slingers fans. As athletes, kids see us as people who chase dreams and we have the power to influence them positively. I want to spread good values to people around me through sports."

Slingers general manager and assistant coach Michael Johnson was full of praise for Ng's character on and off the court. Johnson said: "He carries himself well on and off the court and this is one of the reasons we hired him full-time and let him handle all our community work coordination.

"Han Bin has really stepped up in the play-offs. He is a very good shooter when he is confident, but when he battles for boards and flings himself on the floor for the ball, the other guys get pumped up seeing him doing everything he can to help the team win, and it's a big boost for team morale.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline 'Through the pain, Ng stars outside the arc, in the paint'. Print Edition | Subscribe