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45 memorable PBA imports - Brownlee, Blakely, Durham stood out in 2010s

The roles of PBA imports have changed through the years. Long gone are the days when reinforcements were expected to score 50 or more every single game. They still happen, of course, but it's no longer the norm. That's not to say that recent imports are less talented. It could actually be the opposite.

Let's dive into the 2010s and take a look back at the most memorable imports of the decade.

Ivan Johnson (TNT)

  • Playing years: 2015-16

It's easy to remember Ivan Johnson for his infamous temper. Remember that one time he "accidentally" bumped Coach Yeng Guiao? Remember him standing in front of the entire Rain or Shine team after JR Quiñahan threw the ball at Matt Ganuelas-Rosser?

What should not be overlooked though was how Johnson was a force in the league. Despite being an undersized slotman, he used brute strength to dominate the paint. In his first year with TNT, he immediately led them to the 2015 Commissioner's Cup title.

TNT tapped Johnson again in 2016 but even before the tournament began, he got involved in another scuffle in a tune up against the Blackwater Elite. Following that incident, Johnson had choice words for then-Commissioner Chito Narvasa. That resulted in a hefty fine and him being banned for life from the PBA.

The suspension was reduced to one season after Johnson issued an apology through Twitter, but he never played in the PBA again.

Rob Dozier (Alaska, Phoenix)

  • Playing years: 2013, 2016, 2019

The Alaska Aces were in the middle of a three-year title drought when Robert Dozier Jr. joined them in the 2013 Commissioner's Cup. The former Memphis Tiger immediately flipped the team's fate, leading them to a top seed finish in the elimination round.

Dozier was the perfect addition to the locals of Alaska. His game wasn't flashy but he got the job done down low. He worked especially well with their prized rookie back then, Calvin Abueva. The Aces looked like a machine the entire tournament. Dozier led them in taking down Ginebra in the Finals and even copped the Best Import plum. Dozier had two more PBA stints after that. He rejoined Alaska in 2016 and led them back to the Finals. However, they lost to Rain or Shine. In 2019, he also suited up for the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters.

Henry Walker (Alaska, NLEX, Blackwater)

  • Playing years: 2014, 2016, 2017-18

Before Henry Walker found his way to the PBA, he had spent four years in the NBA. Playing for the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, he was a decent role player who even had playoffs experience in 2009 and 2011.

When he joined Alaska in 2014, there was a lot of buzz. There were high expectations and he did not disappoint. Walker powered the Aces to a semifinals appearance, but they fell short against Rain or Shine.

He later suited up for NLEX and Blackwater. In those teams, his value went far beyond statistics, wins and losses. Walker earned the respect of his teammates through his leadership. His peers often tell tales of him sharing the knowledge he has collected from playing in the NBA and all over the world.

Despite not winning a championship nor a Best Import award, and even though he never even made it to a finals series, Walker has become one of the more memorable imports of the 2010s through his on-and-off court brilliance.

Denzel Bowles (B-Meg/San Mig Coffee/Purefoods/Star, Rain or Shine)

  • Playing years: 2012-2013, 2015-2016, 2019

"Wait a minute! There's a foul!"

Those words define the greatest moment of Denzel Bowles' PBA career.

It was Game 7 of the 2012 Commissioner's Cup. The B-Meg Llamados were down by two and only had 12.3 seconds to work a miracle. James Yap drove down the lane and missed a layup. Somehow, the ball landed back in Yap's hands and he sent it straight to Bowles down low. The 23-year-old import missed the shot but was fouled. Despite having fear painted on his face, Bowles sank both free throws to force overtime. B-Meg eventually won the game, the series and the championship.

It was Bowles' only PBA championship but he won it in a way that few people would forget.

Bowles returned three more times to the Purefoods franchise and played for Rain or Shine in 2019. Unfortunately, his most recent stint in the league was cut short due to an injury.

Renaldo Balkman (Petron/San Miguel)

  • Playing years: 2013, 2018

When it was announced that Petron was tapping NBA veteran Renaldo Balkman as their reinforcement in the 2013 Commissioner's Cup, fans got excited. They had high expectations. And when Balkman took the court, he met all of those.

His skill level was clearly a cut above the rest and his motor was unmatched. He led Petron to a strong start before that incident that quickly turned his PBA career.

Petron was up against Alaska, who shared the same 5-1 record. It was a battle for the top seed and in the final seconds of the game, the Aces were about to seal the victory.

Balkman, who had been frustrated the entire game, began complaining to the referees one after the other. Teammates and coaching staff tried to pacify him but he only grew more irate. Then came the unfortunate moment that defined his PBA career. He choked his teammate Arwind Santos.

Balkman immediately issued apologies to Santos and the Petron management, but it was all for naught. He was banished from the PBA for life by then-Commissioner Chito Salud. The Puerto Rican would get a shot at redemption, though, in 2018 when his ban was lifted by current Commissioner Willie Marcial.

Arizona Reid (Rain or Shine, San Miguel)

  • Playing years: 2011, 2013-2014, 2015-2016, 2018)

Usually, the Best Import award is reserved for a reinforcement who was able to lead his team to the Finals. But in 2011, in his first conference in the PBA, AZ Reid won the award even though Rain or Shine only finished 5th and was eliminated in round-robin semifinals.

Despite the early exit, Reid was able to showcase an all-around game that caught the attention of the league. His best asset was his scoring. Whenever ROS needed a bucket, all they had to do was give him the ball. And that was enough reason for the team to get Reid two more times. In 2014, his third stint with ROS, he towed the team to Finals. They were so close to stopping the Grand Slam bid of San Mig Coffee but it just seemed destined for the Mixers. Reid had to settle for second and the Best Import award as consolation.

The next year, however, he joined the San Miguel Beermen and finally won his first PBA championship.

Romeo Travis (Alaska, Magnolia)

  • Playing years: 2015, 2018-2019

When Romeo Travis first suited up in the PBA, he was more known for being LeBron James' high school teammate. It was just after More Than A Game- that documentary that featured their St. Vincent-St. Mary team's miracle run - was released.

Pretty soon, however, Travis introduced himself as his own man in the PBA. He led Alaska to the Finals of the 2015 Governors' Cup and even won the Best Import award. However, they got swept by Reid and the San Miguel Beermen.

It took three years before he was able to return to the league and seek redemption. The Magnolia Hotshots got him as their reinforcement in 2018. He was able to find his way back to the Finals and as fate would have it, he went up against his former team. That year, Travis did not win the Best Import award but he got something better - his first PBA championship.

Allen Durham (Barako Bull, Meralco)

  • Playing years: 2014, 2016-2020

In 2014, Allen Durham made his PBA debut with Barako Bull. He was able to flip the team's 1-5 record and carry them to the quarterfinals but they immediately got knocked out by top-seeded Talk 'N Text. It was a forgettable stint for Durham. But he got a chance to rewrite his story when Meralco tapped him in the 2016 Governors' Cup.

That was the start of his rise. Durham lived up to his moniker, The Hulk, as he carried the Bolts all the way to the Finals. He was named Best Import but he fell victim to a Justin Brownlee title-clinching buzzer-beater in Game 6.

With unfinished business, Meralco got him again as their reinforcement in the 2017 Governors' Cup. He led them back to the Finals, again against Ginebra. But the same story was told - Durham won Best Import but the chip went to Ginebra. It was the same story in the 2019-2020 Governors' Cup.

Durham's three Best Import awards is second only to the seven of Bobby Parks Sr. Right now though, his focus is on finally winning a PBA championship.

Marqus Blakely (B-Meg/San Mig Coffee/Star, TNT, Blackwater)

  • Playing years: 2012-2016, 2018, 2019

Since his collegiate days in Vermont, Marqus Blakely was already a man of many assets. He had always been as productive on the offensive end as he was effective on the defensive side. That's what he brought into the PBA when he joined the B-Meg in 2012, earning the moniker Mr. Everything.

In his first conference in the league, Blakely went as close to the championship as he could get. He was win away, but an epic Game 7 went the way of Rain or Shine.

He returned the year after and got the job done, leading the renamed San Mig Coffee Mixers to the 2013 Governors' Cup crown. The following year, he rejoined the team again as they tried to complete their 2014 Grand Slam bid. Living up to his moniker, Blakely did everything to help his accomplish the feat. As a result, the Mixers became only the fourth franchise to win a Grand Slam.

Blakely later made appearances with TNT and Blackwater, but his PBA legacy will always be with the Purefoods franchise.

Justin Brownlee (Ginebra)

  • Playing years: 2016-2020

Some call it luck. Some call it destiny. After coming in as a replacement import for Barangay Ginebra in the 2016 Governors' Cup, Justin Brownlee has become arguably the most celebrated import of this decade.

Ginebra initially had Paul Harris that conference. They won their first and only game with Harris before he went down with an injury. Then came Brownlee. At that time, it was impossible to predict the story that he would eventually write with the franchise. In fact, his first game with the Barangay ended up in a loss despite his posting 31 points and 13 rebounds against Alaska. But it was already a glimpse of the marvelous things he could do with a basketball.

Later that conference, Brownlee hit a title-clinching game-winner to end Ginebra's eight-year championship drought. Five years since, he is now a four-time PBA champion - all of which he won with Ginebra.

Justin Brownlee has become the patron saint of the Barangay.