The last time the National Basketball Association (NBA) hosted a game on the ground in Japan, Stephen Curry was a sophomore at Charlotte Christian High School, 50 Cent had the year’s top album on the Billboard charts and Pluto was still considered a planet. Fast forward to 2019 and the NBA is coming back.
The NBA and Rakuten announced today that the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets will play a pair of preseason games in Japan this fall. The NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten will take place on Tuesday, October 8 and Thursday, October 10 at the Saitama Super Arena. This marks the NBA’s 13th and 14th games staged in the country.
“By bringing the NBA games to Japan this fall, Rakuten has a great opportunity to contribute to the further growth and development of the global basketball community.” – Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani
The announcement was made in Tokyo by Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani and NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy. Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese national to play in the NBA, took the stage to share his excitement for the NBA’s eminent return to the country. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also joined the event via live video call to lend his support to the next step in the NBA-Rakuten partnership, which was established in 2017 when Rakuten announced an exclusive partnership to provide NBA coverage across Japan.
The Rockets, led by 2018 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden and nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, previously visited Japan in 1992 when they played two games in Yokohama as part of the 1992-93 NBA season opener. Making their first visit to Japan, the Raptors currently features 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and five-time NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry.
“Rakuten is committed to its mission of empowering people and society through innovation, and our partnership with the NBA is motivated by the power sports have to move individuals and society as a whole,” commented Mickey Mikitani. “By bringing the NBA games to Japan this fall, Rakuten has a great opportunity to contribute to the further growth and development of the global basketball community.”
The announcement comes at a time when Japan is experiencing a renaissance of interest in the sport. Earlier this season, Yuta Watanabe became the second Japanese player to compete in the NBA (after Tabuse), when the 206 cm rookie hit the court for the Memphis Grizzlies.
“With one of the world’s largest economies and a thriving sports culture, we see enormous opportunity for growth in Japan, and we are pleased to partner with Rakuten to continue our tradition of bringing the live, authentic game experience to Japanese fans,” commented Adam Silver.
To help amplify the impact of the games, the upcoming NBA Japan games will be supported by a roster of marketing and merchandising partners. The games will be distributed live in Japan on Rakuten TV, Rakuten’s video-on-demand service, and will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital and social media. In addition to the games, the league and its partners will conduct interactive fan activities and NBA Cares community outreach events that will bring the comprehensive NBA experience to fans in Japan.
The NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten further build on Rakuten’s global partnership with the world’s premiere basketball league. Rakuten and the NBA first partnered in 2017, making Rakuten the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games and a global marketing partner of the NBA. Rakuten TV offers exclusive access to the NBA 2018-2019 season in Japan through its all-access subscription service, Rakuten NBA Special. On the e-commerce front, Rakuten operates the “NBA ZONE” in its internet shopping mall Rakuten Ichiba as a special page featuring NBA merchandise from across Rakuten Ichiba stores.
Ticket sale dates and details have yet to be announced, but fans can register their interest in tickets and gain access to presale information and more by visiting nbaevents.com/japangames.