Yudai Baba doesn’t believe in taking the tried-and-tested approach. “Dream big,” says the 25-year-old basketball star. “You don’t have to follow others’ footsteps to succeed.”
I’ll do my best to invigorate Japanese basketball and to inspire the younger generations.Yudai Baba
A rising international basketball star with a career that has so far spanned three continents, Baba is proving that his philosophy is true. Recognizing his skill and inventiveness, Rakuten announced a strategic global partnership today with LivOn Global, Yudai Baba’s agency, which will support the management and further growth of Baba’s career.
Baba commented, “I am pleased to be working with Rakuten, a company that’s dedicated to developing the sport of basketball in Japan and around the world. I am grateful to have Rakuten’s support as I chase my dream to become an NBA player. I’ll do my best to invigorate Japanese basketball and to inspire the younger generations.”
A history of success
Currently a starter for the Australian National Basketball League (NBL)’s first-placed Melbourne United, Baba’s path to prominence has taken some surprising turns. He began his professional career in his home country of Japan, playing two seasons for Alvark Tokyo of the B.League. In both of those seasons, Alvark were crowned league champions, and Baba earned himself a Finals MVP award.
With nothing left to prove in Japan, it was time for Baba to prove himself on the next stage. No stranger to breaking the mold, Baba became the first player to go from the B.League straight to the U.S. to play professionally — in the sport’s most elite league. As a result, he was the first player awarded the B.League’s “Break the Border” award.
We believe Rakuten is the perfect partner for us to work with to build Baba’s brand and support his athletic career.Anita Smith, LivOn Global CEO
At the 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, an event famous for its ability to showcase the skills of the next generation of superstars, Baba earned a roster spot with the Dallas Mavericks. With solid contributions on offense and defense, Baba was invited to join the Mavericks for the 2019-2020 preseason. But first, he had one more stop to make on his journey, playing a vital role on Japan’s National Team at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Above the rim, Down Under
Of course, no heroic sports narrative would be complete without at least one minor setback. As it has for so many, the COVID-19 pandemic threw an unexpected curveball at Baba. He had played in 40 games for the Mavericks’ affiliate G League team, the Texas Legends, when the NBA G League season was canceled due to the impact of the pandemic. But the greatest athletes view adversity as just another challenge to overcome, and so Baba relocated to Australia, where he continues to impress NBA scouts and dominate the competition.
Dean Vickerman, head coach of Melbourne United, has high praise for the fan favorite wingman. “He’s been exceptional… He’s going to be the best player from the Asian region that’s ever come to this league.” And as if that weren’t enough to prove Baba’s star power, he’s also got his own signature move: a slam dunk known as the Baba Boom. With any luck, it will go down in history alongside such legendary basketball maneuvers as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Skyhook or Manu Ginobili’s Eurostep.
LivOn Global CEO Anita Smith remarked, “We believe Rakuten is the perfect partner for us to work with to build Baba’s brand and support his athletic career. In many ways Baba’s path mirrors Rakuten’s journey from a home-grown Japanese innovator to becoming an internationally recognized name.”
Rakuten Director of Global Branding and Rakuten Sports VP Rahul Kadavakolu is a fan. “We are excited to work alongside Baba, a gifted athlete with tremendous potential making significant strides in the world of professional basketball,” says Kadavakolu. “Rakuten is deeply committed to growing our sport business in Japan and around the world, leveraging the Rakuten Group’s strengths in content, commerce and community, and we look forward to supporting his continued success through this partnership.”