On Friday, we brought you the odd and disconcerting story of ex-NBA player Renaldo Balkman losing his mind after what he felt was a missed foul call in the closing minute of a loss suffered by the Petron Blaze Boosters, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) team for which he's been playing as an international import. The former New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets forward bumped two referees, pushed an assistant coach, threw one teammate aside and, most notably, grabbed another by the throat. In case you missed it:
Balkman later apologized for the incident on Twitter and through a publicist's statement. The remorse wasn't enough to avoid harsh consequences, however — after a 45-minute meeting with Balkman and a lengthy consultation with Petron team officials, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud on Monday banned the former NBA first-round pick from the Philippine league for life and fined him 250,000 Philippine pesos (about $6,143).
According to a statement announcing the decision, Salud felt the lifetime ban was justified for "initiating threatening physical contact with a referee followed by a prolonged, offensive, belligerent if not aberrant on-court decorum directed toward game officials and his Petron team mates and superiors," which showed "a blatant and utter disrespect for the game, his own ballclub, the League, the fans and his host country." More from the commissioner:
In arriving at this decision, I took into consideration Balkman’s track record as a player, including the head-butting incident during a FIBA-Americas game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela and his altercation with the bench of the Alaska Aces during a pre-Season game in Cebu City. I also took into consideration Balkman’s evident disregard for local and the host country’s sensibilities highlighted by his choking act on-court in full public view of his own teammate who was trying to pacify him. Stiff as it maybe, this decision upholds the tenets of contextual accountability and the over-all interest of the League and the fans.
I do encourage passion for the game but I also want to firmly instill a culture of accountability among our players. If one does something that violates the rules and the norms of sportsmanship and decent behaviour, he will be made accountable.
Balkman's fine is believed to be the largest in PBA history levied against a non-Filipino "import" player, according to Chris Lagunzad of Yahoo! Philippines Sports.
Barring both a reversal of the ban and another Philippine squad taking a flyer on him, Balkman's PBA career has ended after just seven games; he averaged 25 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.7 blocks in leading Petron to a 5-2 record, but managed just six points in the Friday loss to the Alaska Aces that culminated in his meltdown.
What comes next for the 28-year-old Balkman is anybody's guess. He carved out a small rotation niche as an energetic rebounder, defender and floor-runner in New York and Denver during his first three years in the league, but found himself relegated to the end of the bench thereafter, earning just 268 minutes in 35 total appearances for the Nuggets and Knicks spread over the course of the next three seasons. New York released him after a brief 14-game stint during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season in order to sign J.R. Smith, leading him to pursue international opportunities. One would imagine finding more of those will be at least a little bit harder for Balkman now.
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