Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China. With the ASEAN Basketball League continuing to grow and expanding it’s reach, it was only a matter of time before the two basketball forces collided. In this eighth historic season, the ASEAN Basketball League now has a team from China: the Nanhai Long Lions.
“After following the league for an entire season and seeing the professionalism as well as how much each team cares about the league made us want to get involved,” says Lukas Peng, Team Manager of the Long Lions. “Other countries in Asia are all rapidly growing in basketball – some even surpassing China – and this has become a platform where Chinese players would be challenged greatly.”
The most populated country in the world follows basketball very intensely and they are looking to bring that mass interest to the ABL while gradually building up their team.
“We all know how big the chinese basketball market is, so we hope to bring a wide fan base and more oppurtunities for ourselves and the entire league,” Peng says. “We know it will be very challenging but we have a long term plan in place to steadily become a contender.”
For the meanwhile, the Nanhai Long Lions should already have a head start with the level of basketball being played in the country. China is among the top basketball countries in the entire world, most recently ranked 24th worldwide and 3rd in Asia by FIBA. However, they are looking use the team to plant seeds that will build up to something that is long-lasting.
“With our team philosophy, we will sign and develop young local talents on our team with the goal of starting and furthering their careers. They will get playing time early in their career where it wouldn’t be possible to get elsewhere.” Peng says.
“We want to win and be competitive, but we also want to develop our players, our brand, and our fanbase through this oppurtunitiy. We want to be interactive and be close to our fanbase. We want to give grassroot players locally a chance to tryout for our team. It’ll be a open opportunity for local players in Foshan.”
“Our roster is made up of CBA Youth team dropouts, College Players, and Young CBA players who have recently been cut. Perhaps also in the future, we’ll be looking for high school talent to give them a chance to start their careers early.”
The expansion team will be based in Nanhai, a district in Guangzhou. Nanhai is one of the first cities to experience the industrial boom back in Qing Dynasty and has its deep roots in Ling Nan culture. The Long Lions moniker is well connected to the city itself.
“A Long Lion is meant to represent the dragon lions in Chinese and Kung Fu,” Peng explains. “The dance and tradition itself has a long standing connection to the Kung Fu culture that is rooted in the province of Guangdong, especially in Nanhai.”
“The Long Lion symbolizes the fighting spirit as well as the cultural significance it has over the area of the Nanhai.”
There is a certain pressure of representing one of the biggest basketball nations in the world, knowing the intense level of passion the fans have for the sport and their expectations for the team. The Nanhai Long Lions are prepared to rise up to the challenge and look forward to build a strong program for the future.
“We want to be competitive and win like everyone else,” Peng concludes. “Our realistic goal is to make the playoffs and play as many games as possible in front of our fans. We have a young team who will be expected to play hard and compete every night, with veteran imports to guide them through their first season as a professional.”