//Spotlight
Dwight Howard in the Philippines representing Strong Group Athletics

Dwight Howard Takes Pride in Representing The Philippines

On his third trip to the Philippines, NBA All-Star Dwight Howard is here to do more than just sign autographs — he’s ready to get a win for the country’s passionate fans.

The Philippines’ love for basketball is a commonly known thing worldwide. Eight-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard himself said, “Being on TikTok, Instagram, and going around different places around the world, I always run into a lot of Filipino fans, and I’ve always gotten so much love…I’ve always enjoyed the Filipino fans.”

Thus, when former Gilas Pilipinas star Andray Blatche asked him to come to the Philippines to take part in Strong Group Athletics’ (SGA) campaign in the Dubai International Basketball Championship, Howard couldn’t say no — especially since this wasn’t his first invite to come back to the Philippines.

Dwight Howard, speaking to the media after SGA’s team practice on Wednesday, January 10, shared, “I went to Thailand to visit last year and ran into a lot of Filipinos out there, and they said, ‘You gotta come back to the Philippines, we love you.’ I said, you know what? I gotta come back. So when [Andray Blatche] called me and asked me, I told him, I’ll be free and I’ll make it possible.”

Now, Howard will be representing the Philippines, playing for Strong Group Athletics in the Dubai International Basketball Championship, alongside many Filipino basketball stars, and a couple of other NBA veterans as well.

Dwight Howard representing Strong Group Athletics for the Philippines in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament
Coming together for the country

This is not Dwight Howard’s first time in the Philippines. He’s visited the country twice before and met the basketball-crazy fans back in 2005 and 2013, promoting the NBA. Now on his third trip back, he has a different mindset.

“Being able to come here and represent the Philippines is a great honor, and I take pride in it,” Howard expressed.

Of course, he is not the only player experiencing this special feeling. Dwight Howard will be leading a team that includes other stars in the sport, including Blatche, another former NBA player, Andre Roberson, and former PBA import McKenzie Moore, as well as a whole roster of big local talents — Justine Baltazar, Jordan Heading, JD Cagulangan, Kevin Quiambao, Francis Escandor, and several others.

College of St. Benilde basketball coach Charles Tiu will be leading the team throughout the tournament, alongside Australian national coach Brian Goorjian. And with just a few days left before the team heads to Dubai, Tiu has only good things to say about their team.

“[Dwight and Andray] are really good,” he shared. “They’re always the two loudest players on the court. We always talk about communicating, and Dwight’s so great and so vocal…They’re a big plus to our team and a big weight off my shoulders.”

Dwight Howard representing Strong Group Athletics for the Philippines in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament
Strong Group Athletics team for the 2024 Dubai International Basketball Tournament

Star power and reputation aside, both Tiu and Howard expressed that their main goal is to win the tournament and focus on what it’s all about — basketball.

“Basketball is basketball,” Dwight said. “Wherever you play, it doesn’t matter…I’ve been playing for so long, I’ve seen so many different styles, I’ve played many different players and stuff like that, so for me basketball is basketball. You can’t do too much to change it, you just gotta enjoy it, bring a lot of energy, and smile.”

Watching the team’s practice ahead of the Dubai tournament, Dwight has been smiling while playing, and his enthusiasm towards the team is apparent. When asked how he feels about the team, he beamed with pride, saying, “Oh man! Come on now, you don’t see who we have on the team? We got the greatest shooters, the greatest defenders, we got the greatest passer in Dray Blatche. We have some good guys on our team. I believe we can do anything we put our minds to and I have faith.

“Obviously, this is a tournament and all of us are coming together to win this tournament, so that’s our focus. Our focus is going to be Dubai and playing against any team there, represent the Philippines, and win it.”

Dwight Howard representing Strong Group Athletics for the Philippines in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament

One thing that makes Dwight so excited and proud to represent the Philippines is none other than the passionate Filipino fans. Ever since he landed, he shared that he’s signed many autographs, taken many photos, and spoken to many passionate fans — and he loves it.

“Just to see the passion that the fans here have for basketball and in life in general, it’s very heartwarming,” he expressed. “So hopefully, everyone puts their egos to the side and represents the Philippines to the fullest, and go out there and get the win.”

Images from Dwight Howard on Instagram.


Erik Spoelstra: The NBA Legend Who Looks Like Me

Which NBA Teams Have The Biggest Fanbases In The Philippines?

What Makes Austin Reaves So Beloved in the Philippines?