T1 League officials yesterday formally introduced US NBA star Dwight Howard to basketball fans in Taipei, ahead of his first game for the Taoyuan Leopards.
Howard is the biggest former NBA name to play in Taiwan, as the eight-time NBA All-Star and five-time rebound king promised to dominate play and bring a championship title to the Taoyuan club.
“This is going to be an awesome time, I can’t wait to get out there and play,” Howard told a press conference, adding that he takes the sport seriously, and aims to help the team win the league’s championship title.
Photo: AP
“This is not me coming here just hanging out. I told the team that I came here to win games. That is our mission. I am looking forward to dominating on the court,” he said.
He has been learning about Taiwan and its culture, so it would be an amazing experience to see cities around Taiwan and meet with fans, he said.
Having visited Taiwan twice before, in 2010 and 2013, for a promotional tour and an exhibition game, Howard said that Taiwanese fans were enthusiastic.
They treated him so well that he promised to come back again, he said, adding that he decided to play in Taiwan before ending his career.
The club’s chief executive officer, Johnny Chang (張建偉), said he had no hesitation signing Howard, and the effort had been worth it.
“When Howard confirmed he would play for us this season, he posted messages on Instagram with Taiwan’s national flag … in doing so Howard is promoting Taiwan on the international stage,” Chang said.
“He is also promoting our T1 League for the world to see, and for our Leopards team and Taoyuan,” he added.
According to media reports, Howard inked an annual US$1 million deal to play in Taiwan for the Leopards.
Taiwan has three basketball leagues: The T1 League, in its second season, has six clubs based in six major cities; the P.League+, playing its third season, is also comprised of six teams; and the semi-professional Super Basketball League, which began in 2003 and is in its 20th season, operates with four teams.
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