MANILA – In the Philippines, Renaldo Balkman is best remembered for his meltdown during his stint with the Petron Blaze Boosters, an incident that got him banned from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
When he was hired during the 2013 PBA Commissioner's Cup, Balkman's arrival was celebrated by Petron Blaze fans who believed that he could help the team win another championship. The former member of the New York Knicks was solid inside the court, averaging 25 points and 13.4 rebounds for the Blaze Boosters.
His PBA stint came to a screeching halt in March 2013, however, when Balkman suffered an intense meltdown during a game against the Alaska Aces. After failing to get the call that he wanted, Balkman wound up shoving referees, assistant coaches, and even a teammate. The shocking incident culminated with the former NBA player attempting to choke Arwind Santos.
He was subsequently fined half a million pesos and banned from the league, though he made sure to apologize for his actions before leaving.
Five years later, Balkman is back in the Philippines. This time, he will be playing for Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League, where he will team up with Ginebra's resident import, Justin Brownlee.
For the 33-year-old player, this is his chance to redeem himself.
"Thankful for another opportunity to do what I love to do," Balkman said in an Instagram post on New Year's Day.
"Five years to the day I did something that I regret, and I learned a valuable lesson from it," he added. "Always remember to keep your composure and to be the best role model you can be."
"Now, I finally have a chance for redemption."
The agent who engineered Balkman's stint with Alab Pilipinas, Sheryl Reyes, urged Filipino basketball fans to give the Puerto Rican-American player another chance.
"Here they are with the Balkman choke jokes," Reyes tweeted. "Give the man a break."
According to Reyes, Balkman has lived "a peaceful life" since his meltdown in 2013. He has played in mostly Latin American leagues, and represented Puerto Rico in international competition.
Balkman and Brownlee are expected to make their debuts for Alab Pilipinas on Wednesday, when they take on the Westports Malaysia Dragons at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)