Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.

Today, we announced a new partnership with NBA star Stephen Curry. As one of the most exciting and innovative players ever seen not just in the NBA but across all sports, we’re honored to connect the Rakuten brand with Stephen, but this partnership is not based solely on recognized sporting excellence. This new partnership is rooted in shared values and experiences: With remarkable track records of disruptive innovation, Rakuten and Stephen himself continue to set the bar to even greater heights because we are passionate about empowering society and we believe in the future.

We have plans to collaborate on Rakuten branding in the United States and we’re very excited to partner on a new and unique initiative championed by Stephen for more personal reasons, a national series of basketball camps for high schoolers that will launch on January 19 in the United States as The Underrated Tour.

The Underrated Tour is a series of basketball camps designed to support unsigned high school players who are not already in the top rankings. These are athletes who, like Stephen Curry as a high schooler, have not been identified by scouting agencies as top-tier recruits. It’s a chance for these young players to refine their skills, gain exposure and achieve a deeper understanding of the game. Athletes participating in Underrated Tour camps will receive training from elite coaches including Curry’s trainer Brandon Payne. Camps will also include lectures from special guests, team-building exercises and lessons on successfully navigating the NCAA.

Stephen Curry started this project because he can relate; he was once an underrated player himself, rebuffed by his first-choice college team because they thought he wasn’t big enough to play competitively. Curry went on to set records in college and the NBA and today is the leader for the back-to-back NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, known for his work ethic, humility and elite scoring ability, the latter of which netted him back-to-back league Kia NBA MVP Awards in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Curry’s message to the players in the Underrated Tour is this: Don’t let others frame your story.

We at Rakuten can also relate to these experiences. As a company, we have often been the underdog that has gone out and redefined expectations. Our announcement that we intend to become Japan’s fourth and newest mobile network operator in 2019 was initially met with skepticism and surprise – even though we have repeatedly entered new businesses and sectors and overturned all expectations to become very successful. Our credit card business is a shining example. While many in the business and financial community criticized our decision to launch a credit card business in 2001, today the Rakuten Card represents the largest credit card in Japan by transaction volume.

Even in Japan where we operate more than 70 services, online and offline, some still see us as a scrappy upstart company. That said, we are now more than 20 years old, employ more than 17,000 people, and serve more than one billion members around the world. Still, we know the best course forward is to continue to innovate and serve our customers; to prove our value everyday by transcending expectations.

Our partnership with Stephen Curry will encompass many elements. He will act as a brand ambassador for Rakuten and our e-commerce business, to help us tell our story to U.S. and global audiences. I’m sure there will be other great new projects in our future as well.

Through it all, we expect Stephen will continue to push boundaries and create new and unique opportunities. He will use his platform to make a difference in the world and impact others in a positive way. It is a mission that resonates with us across our company and one we look forward to supporting. We are proud to partner with him on his journey.