The NBA is the greatest basketball league in the entire world. If there's no season in the states, no one knows the second best professional league, and it doesn't matter. China is the world's largest country population-wise and the fans are monetarily loyal to their favorite athletes. Winning is the consensus No. 1 factor in accounting for individual popularity in China, with Kobe Bryant selling the most jerseys there even though LeBron James is winning that battle stateside. With the Chinese losing Yao Ming, Dwight Howard should look to fill that hole by playing in front of loyal fans who haven't had the chance to see his game in person.
Many want to bring up the risk of injury as a reason why top NBA talent should not play in foreign leagues. However, as Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says, it doesn't matter if a player tears an ACL overseas or in a gym in Compton. Basketball players will play basketball someway, somehow, even if there is no NBA for next season. It's better to be paid for playing when Howard would play basketball regardless. He might as well be punched in on the time clock while he's working.
It's not as if Dwight Howard will be hurting for money if he doesn't earn next season's NBA salary, but he would warrant decent money from a Chinese organization rightfully so because the team's ticket sales would spike.
While Deron Williams is going to be playing in Turkey, China is a much better place. Turkey is more dangerous, and it's soccer territory. Howard's brand would be increased in China while he has already maxed out the American market. Joining the Lakers after his contract is up would not do as much business wise as playing in China for a period of time. While China is not exactly unmarked territory, Howard going there would be similar to the Homestead Act of 1862 in America. The land is controlled but it's still there for the taking if Howard wants to make the trip.
As mentioned before, winning is the biggest deal in China. If the NBA season is just a shortened one, Howard could play out his entire Chinese league year by earning a championship in front of the great Chinese fans. Orlando's front office has not composed a great team around Howard and his worth would not be any lower for free agency during the summer of 2012. The Lakers will still want his services.
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