A hoops war begins this weekend as the SBL tips off at New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang Gymnasium, ahead of the rival P.League+, which begins at the Changhua County Stadium on Dec. 19.
The SBL openers today see Taiwan Bank take on Pauian Archiland at 3pm, followed by the marquee matchup at 5:30pm between defending champions Taiwan Beer and last season’s losing finalists the Yulon Luxgen Dinos.
Jeoutai Technology, the fifth SBL team, formerly known as Kinmen Kaoliang, play their first game tomorrow against Taiwan Bank, also in Sinjhuang.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
Among the new foreign players unveiled this week, the most prominent is former NBA player Rakeem Christmas of the Dinos.
The former Indiana Pacers player is engaged to Jasmine Jordan, the daughter of Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. The couple had a baby last year.
Other Americans signed up for this season include J.D. Miller of Taiwan Beer, Branden Dawson of Jeoutai, Jordan Tolbert of Archiland and Zak Irvin of Taiwan Bank.
The SBL is starting its 18th season as the nation’s top basketball competition, but it has seen some of its clubs depart, with former champions the Dacin Tigers dropping out last year, as well as the Fubon Braves, who left at the end of last season.
The Braves have teamed up with the Formosa Dreamers — renamed the Taishin Dreamers — to create the P.League+, along with two other new clubs, the Taoyuan Pilots and the Hsinchu Lioneers.
CTBA secretary-general Lee Yi-chung said that the SBL teams would do their best to win over the fans and the league has chosen “Fight Back” as its new slogan.
Due to the challenge from the new league, the SBL has ended its practice of signing an exclusive broadcasting agreement with one TV network and this year has broadened its media outreach, Lee said.
SBL games are to be broadcast on the Public Television Service and Videoland Sports, as well as online platforms YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, camerabay.tv and Instagram, he said.
“The players need to be more competitive and improve their game to overcome the challenge of the new league,” Taiwan Beer point guard Chiang Yu-an told reporters on Tuesday. “We have to provide the fans with high-quality basketball and make progress in all aspects of the game, and if we can the results will be good for everyone.”
The SBL had been facing a crisis, with Kaohsiung-based Jeoutai and other teams threatening to leave and sign on with the new league.
With the basketball community divided into two independent leagues fighting for dwindling resources, it is likely only one could survive, commentators say.
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