Dwight Howard Looks Like Prime Wilt Chamberlain Playing In Taiwan
— 28 November 2022

Dwight Howard Looks Like Prime Wilt Chamberlain Playing In Taiwan

— 28 November 2022

Nobody seems to ever talk about how unglamorous the tail-end of a career in professional sports can be. You don’t see the story arc in NBA 2K when your player is past their prime and playing for a new team every season as a fraction of their former selves. Even after they’re forced into retirement, seeing a once-great athlete face humiliation in a celebrity boxing match or struggle to find meaning in life without their original purpose is a tough pill to swallow every time. It’s for this reason that watching Dwight Howard dominate Taiwan’s T1 League has been an absolute triumph.

In his heyday, Howard was an absolute monster. He’s an eight-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA, five-time All-Defense, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009 where they fell to Kobe’s Lakers, but would ultimately become an NBA Champion in 2020 as the starting centre in the Finals for LeBron’s Lakers. He was the best centre in the league throughout the 2010s – an era that represented a considerable shift away from this archetype – and was robbed of a selection in the NBA’s 75th Anniversary team last year.

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Howard would end up playing for seven different teams across 18 years, and last season, he averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds across 60 games for the Los Angeles Lakers. In his debut for the Taoyuan Leopards, Howard managed to put up 38 points (14-32 FG), 25 rebounds, nine assists, and nine blocks in a 120–115 comeback victory over New Taipei CTBC DEA. This didn’t even look like Prime Dwight. He had unlimited freedom to attempt as many threes and handle as much of the ball as he wanted. All in front of an ecstatic crowd who were there to see him and him only.

Dwight Howard is said to be earning over US$1 million (AU$1.49 million) in Taiwan. While the T1 League’s salary cap usually doesn’t allow a foreign player’s salary to exceed US$20,000 (AU$29,800), they made an exception due to his popularity.

The man was earning around US$2.6 million (AU$3.87 million) in the NBA last year, but when free agency rolled around, not a single organisation offered him a contract. The salary might be less, but Taiwan allows Dwight Howard to receive some presumably lucrative endorsements, live in a more affordable city than Los Angeles, as well as play inspired basketball in front of adoring fans.

Formerly great basketball player and professional hater, Dr Shaquille O’Neal, was fairly unimpressed with Howard’s performance, in line with their 15-year-long beef. In an episode of The Big Podcast, Shaq likened the T1 League to a “Life Time Fitness League” and discredited Howard’s performances since, “He’s supposed to have 30 points playing against dudes 5’8.”

“You should never be complimented for being a good father because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?” said Shaq.

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Despite this, it seems that Dwight Howard has perhaps inspired other players to follow in his footsteps playing overseas. 38-year-old Carmelo Anthony and 32-year-old DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins are both rumoured to be in the process of following suit, and making the jump to Taiwan as well.

Though he has found success playing in Taiwan, it’s clear that Dwight Howard still envisions finishing his career in the NBA. Back in October, he mentioned the possibility of playing for the Golden State Warriors for a single season, citing his ability to set screens for Steph Curry and mentor their young centre James Wiseman.

“I would love to play season 19 and go out on top,” said Howard.

“I would definitely love to do that. That would be amazing — and get a parade like I deserve.”

Until then, you can watch Dwight Howard dominate overseas below.

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