For the first time since 2019 — and the second time in nearly 20 years — NBA basketball is coming to Japan. The Golden State Warriors and the Washington Wizards will play two preseason games as part of the NBA Japan Games 2022 Presented by Rakuten. The games will take place at Saitama Super Arena north of Tokyo on September 30 and October 2, giving basketball fans in Japan the chance to see two of the NBA’s most exciting teams up close.
Hosting global games an “extremely encouraging” development
The games were announced at a press conference in Tokyo today, attended by Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy.
“The last time we hosted NBA games here was in 2019,” Mikitani told the press. “The pandemic prevented us from holding any more events for the next three years, but I’m very happy that we’re able to host NBA games in Japan for the second time.”
Mikitani was enthusiastic about the prospect of fans being welcomed back to a live sporting event of this scale.
“Because of the pandemic, we haven’t had many chances to see world-class sporting events. It’s great that we are able to watch online, but seeing such top-class play live in a stadium is a truly incredible experience,” he continued. “I hope these games deliver excitement to Japan, the world and fans everywhere — fans of basketball and all sports.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined the event via live video conference, expressing excitement at the upcoming games.
“I hope these games deliver excitement to Japan, the world and fans everywhere — fans of basketball and all sports.”Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group, Inc.
“Having our teams resume international travel is a sign that we’re getting back to a more normal way of life,” he remarked. “In October of 2019, we played two successful games in Saitama. Those contests were among the last international games we held, as COVID hit just a few months later. So the fact that we can bring NBA basketball to other continents again is extremely encouraging.”
Two local favorites clash
The games will be the first time either team has played on Japanese soil, and local fans of both sides have reason to celebrate. The Golden State Warriors have a strong following in Japan — particularly since Rakuten formed a partnership with the team in 2017. Rakuten became the team’s first-ever (and thus far, only) jersey badge sponsor, while three-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry has been a Rakuten Global Brand Ambassador since 2019, visiting Japan to train promising basketball players through his Underrated Tour.
The Warriors stalwart is expected to play alongside five-time NBA All-Star Klay Thompson, 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green and 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.
“We’ve had the opportunity to play in the global games three times in the last 15 years, but this will be our first trip to Japan,” remarked Golden State Warriors CEO & Co-Executive Chairman Joe Lacob in a recorded message. “We can’t wait to experience the incredible Japanese culture and experience the passionate NBA fanbase in Tokyo.”
“The fact that we can bring NBA basketball to other continents again is extremely encouraging.”Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner
The Washington Wizards lineup, meanwhile, will be led by three-time NBA All-Star Bradley Beal and 2018 NBA All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, and will feature local favorite Rui Hachimura, the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Hachimura is expected to be a significant draw for local fans, who have had a taste of what he can do on the court with Japan’s men’s national team, and have grown accustomed to seeing him in Japanese media.
“This has great, deep personal meaning for us as an organization because we’ve drafted and developed Rui Hachimura,” commented Monumental Sports & Entertainment Founder & CEO Ted Leonsis. “He gets the opportunity now to go back home and play in front of friends, family, the league, knowing that the world will be watching.”
A truly global sporting event
The games will be the second time Rakuten has hosted the NBA in Japan, following two packed fixtures between the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors in 2019.
Both games will once again be streamed live in Japan over the NBA Rakuten streaming service, and are expected to reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories around the world across TV, digital and social media platforms.
“It’s amazing to see the growth of basketball on an international basis,” said Warriors CEO Lacob. “It is truly a global game.”