Rockets guard Jalen Green joins new Asian league

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BRISBANE, Australia — Before Jalen Green joined the Houston Rockets, becoming the NBA’s highest-drafted Asian-American player, he had already seen firsthand how passionate Filipinos were about the game he loved to play.

It is partly for this reason that he joins forces with the new East Asian Super League as an ambassador, joining Baron Davis, Metta World Peace and Shane Battier.

The eight-team pan-regional league will kick off in October and will feature winners and runners-up from the Japanese, South Korean and Philippine leagues as well as champions Taiwan and the Bay Area Dragons, a roster of players from across greater China. based in Manila for Season 1.

Green, who grew up in California with his Filipino mother, Bree Purganan, already had a large following before being selected second overall in the draft and made the NBA All-Rookie Team for 2021-22. He played for the United States in international youth tournaments and he got a taste of the game in the Philippines during a trip to Manila in 2019.

“The love and support from the Philippines…this experience has opened my eyes to how important basketball is to the country,” Green said. “In the Philippines, they call me ‘idol’.”

It could make him the next big thing.

The country’s most legendary sports export, former world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, is a huge basketball fan and met Green.

“He’s a competitor, and sport isn’t just a career for him, it’s his way of life,” Green said of the lessons he takes from Pacquiao’s approach to professional sport. “That’s the type of mindset you need to have to be the best at what you do. That’s the ultimate goal, to be the best.

The Rockets already have a large fan base in Asia, with Yao Ming’s eight seasons with Houston exponentially raising the profile of the sport in China.

National leagues have grown, and now the home-and-away regional league will further bolster the development of basketball in the world’s most populous continent.

“I want to inspire the next generation of hoops in Asia and elevate the game in the region,” Green said. “I see the East Asian Super League as the gateway for Asian players to get to the NBA.

“It’s going to bring a different dynamic to the region…it’s something Asian basketball needs to take to the next level.”

East Asian Super League chief executive Matt Beyer said the collaboration with Green, who will feature in marketing, behind-the-scenes content and make appearances, would be “highly synergistic”.

“Jalen Green is the best Asian star in the NBA and has a deep understanding of the market, while being loved by fans in Asia,” Beyer said. “He also cares deeply about the sport and believes helping to elevate the game in Asia is part of his heritage. (He) now has a new way of doing it.

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