Philippine Basketball (PBA) - As of this writing, Friday night's ugly incident involving Petron Blaze Boosters import Renaldo Balkman choking local teammate Arwind Santos in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has already made its rounds throughout the internet and social media. (If you haven't seen it yet, here's the video)
To simply put it, the former first round pick of the New York Knicks and former Denver Nugget crossed a hallowed line in professional team sports when he bumped and shoved an official during a nationally televised game, and furthermore desecrated it when he repeatedly shoved and pushed away his own coach and teammates, then threatened and assaulted another by choking him by the neck. Forget the fact that Balkman did this as a visitor in a basketball-crazy country with educated and knowledgeable fans who have embraced him as a player; his antics are simply unacceptable and should warrant the addition of another "former" to his list of credentials: "former PBA import".
Balkman deserves to, and has to go.
The PBA is one of the longest-running and most prestigious basketball organizations outside the US, and uniforms a lot of its rules and format to the NBA. If Balkman's meltdown happened in the NBA, Commissioner David Stern would've cracked his whip so fast it would make his head spin. Think then Golden State Warrior Latrell Sprewell choking then coach P.J. Carlesimo in practice back in 1997. Sprewell received a 68-game suspension for the assault. And that was in practice. No cameras. No kids and women watching in the stands. No bright lights. (In the famous words and tone of the great A.I.) "Practice".
If Sprewell committed his crime behind closed doors, Balkman did his in broad day light. If Sprewell's was a singular case of assault toward his coach, Balkman had multiple infractions against multiple victims: The referee, assistant coach Biboy Ravanes, teammates Ronald Tubid and Arwind Santos to name a few. Balkman, and the league as well, are actually fortunate that cooler heads still prevailed considering what had already transpired. Had a local player decided to throw a punch at Balkman to come to Santos' aide, imagine what a full scale brawl between teammates would amount to. Balkman delivered a black eye to the league, himself, and left many traumatized.
Fortunate or not, however, that falls in the "coulda', woulda', shoulda'" department, but what needs to happen now is for the league (if not the Petron organization), to send Balkman his marching papers. An ugly incident like that needs to be addressed, sanctioned and buried in the past - immediately. It violated many counts in the code of sportsmanship, camaraderie, team play, and several other virtues and ideals professional sports stand for. You simply can't bump into officials and refuse to be restrained then continuously threaten to go after them, on top of assaulting your own teammates.
You just can't do that. No matter how "emotional" or "intense" of a player you are, there are lines you simply can not cross. Unfortunately for Balkman, he crossed all those lines in his moment of rage. If Balkman were to be given a slap on the wrist, the PBA Commissioner's office will also be delivering a slap to its face, its fans, and make a mockery of a league that has a long, storied reputation to uphold.
Balkman needs to go.
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Balkman did issue an apology after the incident (via SLAM):
“I, Renaldo Balkman, would like to apologize to my teammates, the fans, the entire Philippines Basketball association, and the entire Perton Blaze Boosters organization. I would especially like to apologize to Arwind Santos and his family. I would never intentionally inflict harm on another human being, especially a teammate who I respect deeply.
“My behaviors, during a very intense moment of a heated game, came as a surprise even to me. It is not in my character to react physically in any situation and this is the first time I have ever behaved in such a manner. My actions were out of line and I am ready to fully accept any consequences for my actions. I hope that the Petron Blaze Boosters management will recognize this unfortunate situation as a slip up that will never happen again.”
Apology accepted. On a different note, this isn't Balkman's first incident of such nature playing international basketball like he claims. Check out this video of an altercation Balkman had while playing for Puerto Rico.
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