It’s not every day that Japanese basketball fans get the chance to meet a living legend in their own backyard. But that’s just what happened last month for 50 lucky fans who attended the NBA Fan Meeting With Ray Allen Presented by Rakuten TV at a trendy hotel in downtown Tokyo.
Fresh from writing his New York Times bestselling memoir “From the Outside: My Journey Through Life and the Game I Love,” the two-time NBA champion, Olympic gold medalist and 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee held a rapid-fire Q&A with the audience. In less than an hour, Allen covered a gamut of topics from the NBA’s growing popularity in Japan to his favorite shoes (Fire Red Jordan 4s, size 15, in case you were wondering), and even his thoughts on the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The morning after Rakuten TV’s big fan event, which also included an appearance at a 3-on-3 tournament and a three-point contest led by Allen, Rakuten Today had a chance to speak with the star one-on-one.
Here’s what Ray Allen had to say on Japan, the NBA, and his secret to success, both on and off the court.
Welcome to Japan! What’s been your favorite part of the trip so far?
Allen: It’s amazing how friendly the people are. You feel so at home because the hospitality is great here, and you just feel so at ease. It’s good for your spirit, your energy. And at the events we had, I saw the passion the fans have for the NBA. It certainly was a great experience.
We saw that passion firsthand when you exited the event last night. There was a mob of fans waiting for you with basketballs, shirts and other memorabilia, and you took the time to sign as many as you could. Is there anything else you’re looking forward to while you’re here?
Hopefully I’m invited back, because I’m going to have to do it on another trip! I went up to Skytree and got a bird’s-eye view of this whole great city. I’ll have to do more next time.
Rakuten partnered with the NBA last fall to help grow the popularity of the NBA and the sport in general in Japan. What do you think has to happen for basketball to make it to the next level here?
Now is a great time because 2020 is coming fast. I’ve seen what China has done and how popular the game is there now. During those building years, they had a lot of teams going to America to play exhibition games with college teams and play in summer leagues.
There are a lot of great players [in the US] now that aren’t on the NBA rosters. The sponsors here should try to get them over to Japan. The better basketball you play, the more fans show up, and the better everyone understands the game.
As for the NBA, it’s great for us to be here and perform these clinics. For the kids at the 3-on-3 last night, I’m probably the first NBA player they’ve ever seen. That planted a seed in their brains.
You need to get players over here so the fans can feel connected to them. They have to realize there’s nothing otherworldly about me or any other NBA player. We’re just guys that stuck to our craft and stayed committed. When you see that up close and personal, you realize this is something you can do too.
You’re not only a successful athlete, you’re an author, NBA spokesperson, critically acclaimed actor and entrepreneur. How do you manage to stay so balanced and get all this done?
Family. Every time I go home, I’m reminded that this is real life. I do everything I can to get back to my kids. And that’s what everyone’s doing: Trying to figure out how to do good work at their job and get back home to their family.
At the same time, opportunity-wise, I know I’m not just a father. There are people that can use my words or my presence to help them in their lives—I take that responsibility seriously. There are people that look up to me and need a word or two to push them along, and I try to do as much as I can.
What advice would you give to people out there who want to excel in their field, whether they be aspiring NBA players, entrepreneurs or people just starting out in their careers?
“I always tell people I’m not the best shooter I’ve known in my life. There were so many better shooters than me growing up. I wanted to be like them, so I hung out with them…When somebody’s better than you, don’t hide from them. Don’t run away from them—go to them. Whoever the best at work is, whoever’s the best at the sport in your neighborhood, find them and hang out with them. They might beat you, but you learn so much more from them than from being around people who aren’t as good as you.”
Rakuten means “optimism” in Japanese. Can you tell us one thing you’re optimistic about right now?
I’m optimistic about everything. You have every reason to be optimistic about life. Regardless of what you have today, if you wake up the next morning, you have an opportunity to do something great.
Regardless of who it is or where you are—life is precious. Just being optimistic about that promotes energy and enthusiasm for everyone else. When you give it out, you get it back two-fold.
For more from Ray Allen, check out his new book, “From the Outside.”