Terrence Romeo redeemed himself with a Finals MVP performance

It’s been eight months since Terrence Romeo was traded away by the TNT KaTropa to the San Miguel Beermen.

On the surface, the trade looked like another move by San Miguel to sustain their dominance over the league. After all, Romeo was a scoring champion. Ever since he set foot on the PBA, he already showed that he can drain buckets night in and night out. It only took him three years to take his first scoring title, and he held on to it for three years.

He was also growing to be the PBA’s golden boy, which was more than just an allusion to his once blonde hair. For a time, he was poised to be the face of the league. Romeo didn’t just represent the highest form of basketball in the country. See, every isolation play, every nifty crossover, every savvy finish that he unleashed was reminiscent of kanto ball. The type of play you’d see on a makeshift court at the corner of a street, whether you were under the bright lights of the Metro or the serene environment of a province. It’s like the country’s basketball culture was ingrained in his identity. Romeo was Philippine basketball.

The union between Romeo and San Miguel was supposed to be a match made in heaven—a superstar guard who was born to score would take over the reins of the most successful PBA franchise.

In another life, this would have been true. However, Romeo carried a lot of baggage before he arrived at San Miguel’s doorsteps. He knew he was a franchise-level scorer, and he carried that role for better or for worse. He was so accustomed to carrying the offense on his back that he reduced sets to a one-man show. Moreover, his bursting temper resulted to issues on and off the court. The shouting match with Pido Jarencio, the unsuccessful stint with TNT KaTropa, all the drama that made him an enigmatic figure in the PBA, far from the highly touted star that he should have been.

Soon, the iso plays turned into isolation. He was singled out as a locker room cancer, a black hole that will slow down a team’s offense to a standstill. He was seen as a pariah that would never achieve greatness, even if he was on a great team.

That was the baggage Romeo carried when he was sent away by TNT to San Miguel. In the six years he spent before he became a Beerman, it certainly looked like his career was already on the decline. He looked done. He was nothing more than a remnant of the scoring machine that could carry a team just a few years ago. With the failed experiment in TNT, there was this feeling that Romeo might just be another big names in the collection of big names in San Miguel. One that would make the team more stacked on paper, but would probably not do much for their ongoing dynasty.

The truth is, Romeo wasn’t there to take the wheel out of anyone’s hands. He was there to seek for redemption that he desperately needed.

It’s been eight months since Terrence Romeo was traded away to the San Miguel Beermen. He wasn’t given the same minutes that he used to have when he was with GlobalPort or TNT. He had to fall in line behind Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter at the guard rotation. He still showed flashes of his old self, averaging 15.7 points per game in 22 minutes of play in the Philippine Cup—the conference in which he won his first title.

His first taste of a championship should have been the redemption arc that Romeo waited for awhile now, but there was this feeling that something still lacked in the win. Except for the 18-point performance in game four, he wasn’t able to fully make his mark in Philippine Cup Finals.

Of course, none of it mattered. Romeo made it known that he enjoyed winning. In fact, he made himself clear after winning his first chip: he wanted more.

As it turned out, the basketball gods wrote a better story for Romeo to star in. His next shot at a championship was at the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup against the top-seeded TNT Katropa, the same team that signed his death sentence a few months back.

He didn’t waste his chance to settle the score against his former team, as he pulled his own weight in the finals in the best way that he can. Coming off the bench, Romeo was effective as the focal point of the Beermen’s second unit attack. Ever so defiant, he torched his old team with a boat load of jump shots and triples in game two. He scored 29 points—his best output yet on a San Miguel uniform. He even buried the game-saving shot that sent the game into overtime, stopping TNT from taking a 2-0 lead.

Romeo wasn’t just a one-game spectacle. He shined once more in game five with his 22-point performance, helping the Beermen pull off a close win and take the lead at a crucial junction of the series. He was a consistent contributor throughout the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, with averages of 14.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds.

His heroic sixth-man effort was duly recognized as he earned his first Finals MVP. Romeo was a champion once more, but this time he won the chip in his own terms. He was still a deadly scoring dynamo. But he changed his mindset, and willingly accepted the role that was laid out for him in San Miguel. Romeo proved he could be a game-changer without having to change his game.

He is finally free from the ghosts that haunted his career. He’s far from the scoring champion, the would-be face of the league that he once was. But Romeo proved not only to himself, but to every doubter out there that he can be a great winner on a great team.