Local hoops fans remember the former NBA player for choking Arwind Santos (his teammate!), an act that resulted in him being banned from the PBA. On Wednesday, he had the opportunity to fix his reputation, this time as a member of Alab Pilipinas, which is coached by—you guessed it—Alapag.
Balkman, together with Justin Brownlee, was one of the new reinforcements brought in to replace the injured Ivan Johnson and Reggie Okosa. The national ball club didn't exactly have the best start to the seventh season of the Asean Basketball League, surrendering its first three games before salvaging the last one, despite having reigning local league MVP Ray Parks.
And who better to help Balkman in his redemption tour than two-time PBA champion and Ginebra cult hero.
It was instant chemistry between the reinforcement duo fondly called "B1 and B2" against the Westports Malaysia Dragons. For Brownlee's part, he led the Alab charge with 29 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks, while being showered with "Gi-ne-bra" chants.
But the story of the match was Balkman, who suited up in and even for the country for the first time since 2013. He finished with 17 markers, 11 boards (team-high), four swipes, and two swats, and proved to Filipinos at the Filoil Flying V Centre that he is, well, a really a good guy at heart.
Alapag and Alab (2-3) welcomed the year with a winning streak—thanks to its two-headed import monster. But more importantly, the team was able to give Balkman a second life in local basketball.