Warriors surprise young NBA fans with court makeover
Last month’s NBA Japan Games 2022 Presented By Rakuten marked the NBA’s first outing to Japan since Rakuten held the event in 2019. Basketball fans were treated to a matchup of two of the most watched teams in Japan: The Washington Wizards, starring up-and-coming Japanese forward Rui Hachimura; and reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors, with whom Rakuten has partnered since 2017.
In Japan for the first time, the Warriors capitalized on the opportunity to connect with local fans – even undertaking a refurbishment project at a local basketball court in Rakuten’s own neighborhood of Setagaya.
The Warriors Community Foundation has taken on similar refurbishment projects around the United States – several of which Rakuten has collaborated on – but this event marked the first time the group pursued such an initiative in Japan.
Superstars surprise Setagaya kids
The refurbished court in question was that of the Ikenoue Youth Exchange Center ‘Ikesei’ in Setagaya, Tokyo. A small opening ceremony invited a number of young basketball players from the area to celebrate the occasion.
What these young athletes didn’t know, however, was that they would be meeting four star players of reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors: two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and teammates Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and Moses Moody.
The event was also attended by none other than Setagaya City Mayor Nobuto Hosaka, who expressed gratitude for the Warriors’ outreach.
“I understand that the Golden State Warriors have been contributing to many basketball court refurbishments in the United States, but I’m very delighted that this is the first in Japan,” he told the Ikesei crowd. “We’re truly grateful to the players who gave us a surprise visit today for giving these young athletes big dreams and a memory they will never forget.”
Golden State Warriors President and COO Brandon Schneider stressed the importance of forging strong connections with the community and highlighted the Warriors’ long-running partnership with Rakuten.
“Community impact is a core responsibility of the Warriors franchise, something that is intimate to who we are,” he declared. “We have accomplished so many amazing things together with Rakuten. This court refurbishment is definitely a highlight of our special partnership, and I look forward to many, many more.”
Rahul Kadavakolu of Rakuten’s Global Sports Business suggested that there could be more for the local kids to look forward to in the future.
“Along with the Golden State Warriors and Setagaya City, we will continue to look for opportunities to utilize this court, to promote the game, provide kids with a place to learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun.”
The young athletes in attendance got some personal pointers from the likes of Stephen Curry, who joined his teammates to spend the afternoon shooting hoops and playing games on the newly refurbished court. Curry himself addressed the crowd, playing up the similarities between his team and partners Rakuten.
“We started this partnership with Rakuten in 2017, and it’s unique in a lot of different ways. But community impact has been a consistent pillar between the two organizations which has allowed us to change so many lives around the world.”