Now that Dwight Howard has burned bridges with the rooting populous for 29 NBA teams — only fans of the team that eventually lands Howard will ever cheer for him again — he needs to look abroad. If his desire is truly to become a global icon, then all flights to that status connect through Houston.
The Rockets were already an international presence before they swept away Jeremy Lin from the Knicks. The craze of Linsanity was nothing compared to the obsessive hype Yao Ming caused overseas, and by all indications many Chinese fans have still not been weaned off their support for the Rockets. Lin, a Taiwanese-American who was embraced by Asian fans last season, will keep the fire hot. Howard could turn it into a blaze.
The fact that these international fans probably could not identify Hakeem Olajuwon or know the significance of "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion" is of no concern to Howard. Their money is still green, or whatever color a yuan is. Howard merely needs to ask Tracy McGrady, whose relatively short tenure as a superstar in the states does not approach his popularity in China, about the benefits of playing for the most-watched team in the most populated nation on Earth. Between Brooklyn and Beijing, there is no argument over which city provides the best foundation for icon stature.
If the Rockets' reported pursuit of Howard was not already a wise move — and it was — the acquisition of Lin has now makes Houston even more of a no-brainer for the drama-obsessed center. Howard's lack of affection for the Rockets is beside the point. One season in Houston exposed to the crush of international media should be enough to convince Howard that the Rockets are the team for him. If it does not, then he is a lost cause.
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