After incurring multiple infractions throughout his PBA career, and sustaining two instances of misconduct in a span of just a few days recently, volatile Phoenix Pulse Fuel Master Calvin Abueva finds himself indefinitely suspended from playing. PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial handed out the stiff sentence, together with a fine of P70,000.
This is of course not the first time the PBA handed down a suspension, even an indefinite one, or charged a fine, in its history. There have been a number of, shall we say, offenders, who have earned the ire of the sitting Commissioner, and whose acts merited severe penalties in varying degrees. Below are some of the afore-mentioned instances, which evoke not-so-pleasant memories, especially for the players involved. Please note that this list is far from comprehensive but includes offenses and penalties of all kinds.
OSCAR ROCHA (May 10, 1975)
Just how intense was the Crispa-Toyota rivalry? After their very first game in the PBA on May 10, 1975, Toyota's Oscar Rocha was the first player in league history to be sanctioned with a P500.00 fine as well as a one-month suspension for punching Bernie Fabiosa of Crispa in the face with only three seconds remaining in the game, right in front of then-Commissioner Leo Prieto. In that game, the Redmanizers pulled off a 139-133 victory over the Comets. Fabiosa was ordered to pay a P50.00 fine but escaped suspension. Prieto said that the penalties could have been stiffer had a riot ensued. This became the blueprint for future decisions made by the Commissioner involving on court shenanigans.
TOYOTA-CRISPA RUMBLE (April 17, 1977)
Perhaps the most controversial fistfight in PBA history happened between the two fiercest rivals ever, right on the opening day of the 1977 season. Just as the Redmanizers won in a close game, 122-121, a post-game free-for-all occurred with practically all the players from both sides delivering blows on the Big Dome hardcourt, a fracas that spilled over to the dugouts. The incident was churned into the headlines of all sports pages of the major broadsheets the succeeding day, especially since the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) police picked up all the players from their respective houses and jailed them for one night. Prieto had to appeal to Brig. Gen. Prospero Olivas, Metrocom chief, to release the players, with a commitment that sterner measures would be enforced to avoid a similar incident in the future. Despite the fisticuffs, the league did not mete out suspensions but fined each team P5,000.00.
AÑEJO-PRESTO RUMBLE (December 11, 1988)
At the ULTRA (now Philsports Arena), the two teams, each with a number of known bruisers in their lineups, were engaged in a hotly-contested match. Suddenly, as Hall-of-Famer Philip Cezar drove to the hoop, Añejo import Tommy Davis clothes-lined him, sending him to the hardcourt. Cezar quickly got up, gave chase, and confronted Davis. Other players stepped in, words were exchanged, the other Añejo import, Joe Ward, went berserk, and then, all hell broke loose. Punches and kicks, and even chairs, were thrown as the melee spilled into the crowd. Eventually, after a few minutes, cooler heads prevailed, but the damage had been done. The game resumed, with Añejo winning, 171-145. Then-Commissioner Rudy Salud considered punishing several players, but there is no readily available data as to how much fines, how many games, and exactly which players were sanctioned, if any. It is said that Davis and Ward were fined about P20,000.00 each but could not be suspended since this was their last game in the tournament. They never returned. The incident is still considered perhaps the worst brawl in PBA history.
RUDY "THE DESTROYER" DISTRITO (May 14, 1995)
Always top of mind in discussions about the roughest, toughest hombres who ever paraded around the PBA, Distrito, who was a very talented cager, was often in the center of confrontations, fights, and face-to-face, mano-a-mano standoffs throughout his career. Sadly, these happenings overshadowed his talent and skill. While with Sunkist during an All-Filipino Finals game, Distrito chased down a young Jeffrey Cariaso, who was ready to sail in for an uncontested lay-up on the break. Distrito did not slow down, kept going, and up-ended Cariaso from behind with full force, with no intention of going for the ball, just the man. He was thrown out of the game. Afterwards, because of prior conduct, which already merited fines and suspensions against Distrito, then-Commissioner Jun Bernardino issued the ultimate penalty of a ban from the PBA. This was not a suspension, but a total ban. Eventually, the Games and Amusements Board revoked the license of Distrito, and he never got to play in the PBA again.
FILIPINO CITIZENSHIP ISSUE (June 2000)
In the era of those considered as "Fil-shams" - some mistakenly, some confirmed, some still under investigation - the PBA Commissioner's office, in an unprecedented move, suspended Eric Menk of Tanduay, Danny Seigle of San Miguel, and Chris Jackson of Shell, whose papers were still being processed, while the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) ordered the deportation of Asi Taulava of Mobiline, and Sonny Alvarado of Tanduay for allegedly mis-declaring themselves as Filipinos. The BID subsequently revoked the Filipino citizenship of Alvarado after finding that he submitted fraudulent documents. However, Tanduay had fielded Alvarado in Games 2 and 3 of their semifinal series versus Purefoods, a move that prompted the league to forfeit the Rhum Masters' victories in both games. Tanduay was able to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Makati Regional Trial Court that prevented the holding of Game 4 on two successive game dates, the first time in league history that a game was suspended because of a court order. Purefoods went on to win the best-of-5 series, 3-1. When the smoke cleared, the PBA eventually sanctioned Tanduay with a stiff P2.5M fine for the unfortunate legal incident.
COACH BILL BAYNO (August 11, 2002)
The PBA, through then-Commissioner Bernardino, fined former TNT head coach and now Indiana Pacers assistant coach Bill Bayno the amount of P200,000.00 for expressing his thoughts on what he perceived as the league's partiality to the then 4 SMC teams in the league. In a post-game interview, Bayno claimed that "everytime we play San Miguel, we never get our fair shake. San Miguel always gets the calls. It's happening. The Commissioner saw it. I've been it long enough and I've heard a lot of rumors. I'm not afraid to say it. SMBA is what this is...San Miguel Basketball Association. That's the reason why they won a lot of championships. I'm not afraid to say the truth." Of the P200 thousand, P100 thousand was for publicly criticizing the league while another P100 thousand, from five P20,000 fines, was for the statement he made against the Commissioner's Office and the four San Miguel teams - SMB, Purefoods, Ginebra and Coca-Cola.
STRICT ENFORCEMENT OF THE LEAGUE'S ANTI-DRUG POLICY (2003)
Under then-newly-installed Commissioner Noli Eala, the league tightened the reins with regard to its anti-drug policy. In various random drug tests on different occasions, the results for several high-profile players, as well as some lesser-known reserves, turned out to be positive. This prompted the PBA to immediately suspend them with their return subject to their compliance with certain conditions, including approved rehabilitation and submission of necessary documents thereafter. Among those suspended were San Miguel center Dorian Peña, Red Bull forward/center Davonn Harp, Ginebra centers Zandro Limpot and Alex Crisano, forwards Noli Locsin and Norman Gonzales of Talk 'N Text, and guard Jimwell Torion of Red Bull. Most of them pleaded not guilty and sought to prove their innocence in different ways. Limpot was especially distraught as he tearfully claimed he had never even tried any type of illegal drug in his life. Gonzales took the matter to court as he tried to secure a TRO to stop his suspension, which the court denied. Eventually, the league reinstated all these players, although Torion's suspension, which at first was deemed indefinite but was later reduced to eight months, lasted the longest as he had had several run-ins with the Commissioner's Office earlier in his career for various reasons, including fighting and committing dangerous fouls.
WYNNE ARBOLEDA (October 16, 2009)
Arboleda was a rugged guard, built like a tank with broad shoulders and a no-nonsense style of play. He was a good playmaker with a fairly decent outside shot, but what he was most known for were his bone-jarring fouls - when he used his fouls, opponents felt them. While with the Burger King Whoppers, Arboleda, during a highly-physical game against guest-team national squad Smart Gilas Pilipinas, suddenly ran towards the courtside seats to confront a fan who, he said, had been heckling him throughout the game. Unfortunately, Arboleda started punching and kicking the fan before arena security was able to get to him. As expected, the referees threw Arboleda out of the game. Then-Commissioner Sonny Barrios invited Arboleda to his office three days later and, despite the apologies and pleading of the latter, suspended the player for the rest of the 2009-2010 season. He was also fined P20,000.00 for two flagrant fouls he committed during that game. Arboleda eventually was allowed to return to the league and played for several more years without any other significant incident. He retired in 2016.
DON ALLADO (July 3, 2012)
Veteran big man Allado, then with the Barako Bull Energy, went on a Twitter rampage after his team lost in a do-or-die game against the Powerade Tigers, 99-95. Perhaps out of frustration and utter disappointment, he directed his ire against the PBA, basically saying that the league was rigged and no longer had any credibility. Of course, this did not sit well with then-Commissioner Chito Salud, who took note of his series of tweets and then summoned him to his office. Salud said that Allado clearly crossed the line and that the tweets were "irresponsible, baseless, and an affront not only on the present players, owners, and officials of the league, but to all past players, owners, and officials." The Commissioner immediately suggested that the penalty would be a fine, a suspension, and possibly even a ban from the league. Allado, also on Twitter, apologized profusely. True enough, after the one-on-one meeting, Salud issued his decision, which was firm, final, and unappealable. He fined Allado P500,000.00 and suspended him for one PBA conference, both from games and all other PBA-related activities. Allado was fortunate to be able to return to the PBA for a couple more seasons after serving his sentence. He formally retired in 2016.
RENALDO BALKMAN (March 8, 2013)
In what became the "choke heard 'round the world" at the time, Petron import Balkman, an intense and intimidating presence, lost his cool in the dying minutes of a game against the Alaska Aces, an 83-73 loss. Claiming he had been fouled even if the officials had not blown their whistles, he confronted a referee, bumped him, and slapped away his arm. He then shoved his own Assistant Coach, Biboy Ravanes, shoved his own teammate, Ronald Tubid, pushed another teammate, Arwind Santos, and then choked Santos in a menacing manner. He was given a technical, thrown out of the game, and eventually, after then-Commissioner Chito Salud investigated, banned from the PBA altogether. Salud also fined him P250,000.00. It was not the first time Balkman had acted belligerently on the court. Despite all this, years later, in 2018, Commissioner Willie Marcial lifted the lifetime-ban against Balkman and allowed him to play for San Miguel, which Balkman led to the Finals of the Commissioner's Cup, only to lose to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Whether they felt there was biased officiating or it was out of pure frustration, coaches and their teams have walked-out of games with time left on the clock as a sign of protest. At times, they returned, but at others, they did not. In any case, the PBA sanctioned them with hefty fines.
In 1990, Añejo was playing versus Shell in Game 6 of the championship when the team decided to walk out on account of supposedly spotty officiating and never returned. The result? A P500,000.00 fine.
In 2006, Coach Yeng Guiao, angry at the referees, escorted his Red Bull squad off the court during Game 4 of the Finals. Unlike Anejo, Red Bull returned to finish the game, which it lost. However, Red Bull did go on to win the title in seven games. For its temporary walk-out, the PBA fined Red Bull over P500,000.00.
In the 2010 Philippine Cup, Talk 'N Text walked out of a game against Ginebra upon the urging of coach Chot Reyes. Despite pleas to return, the Texters did not and suffered the largest penalty for a walk-out at the time - P1,000,000.00.
In 2014, also in the Philippine Cup Finals, Rain or Shine decided to walk off the court in a game against San Miguel Beer after Coach Yeng Guiao expressed his frustration over the poor officiating. While Rain or Shine did return to resume and finish the game, the league still penalized the franchise with a record P2,000,000.00 fine, which, under existing rules, would have been P10,000,000.00 had the team not returned.
Basketball is a highly-emotional game and sometimes, those emotions get the better of the players, coaches, and even team officials. Under all sorts of pressure to win and/or to do well under intense scrutiny and the bright lights of the arena in front of the spectators, individuals can lose their composure and transgress. However, there are rules in place for proper conduct and there are rules that must be followed. There are also proper procedures and forums to air grievances. Step out of line, and you may have to pay the price.