The NBA basketball league has announced plans to stage two pre-season games at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan later this year.

The NBA made the announcement in association with internet services company Rakuten, which will serve as the presenting partner of the games.

The NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten will take place on October 8 and October 10 and will pit the Toronto Raptors against the Houston Rockets. It will mark the league’s 13th and 14th games in Japan and the first since 2003.

The NBA held 12 regular-season games in Japan between 1990 and 2003, with Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama all staging fixtures. The Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz clash on November 2, 1990 marked the first regular-season game played outside of North America by a US sports league.

A range of fan activities will be held during November’s games, with NBA Cares community outreach events also set to help bring the NBA experience to Japanese fans.

The announcement comes following a groundbreaking partnership between the NBA and Rakuten, signed in 2017, that named Rakuten as a global marketing partner of the NBA and the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “Bringing NBA pre-season games to Japan will help accelerate the growth of basketball in a country that features a thriving sports culture and one of the world’s largest economies. Building on our long history in Japan, we are pleased to partner with Mickey and his team at Rakuten to share the authentic, live game experience with the NBA’s growing Japanese fan base.”

Rakuten chairman and chief executive Mickey Mikitani added: “Rakuten is committed to its mission of empowering people and society through innovation, and our partnership with the NBA is motivated by the power sports have to move individuals and society as a whole. By bringing NBA games to Japan this fall, Rakuten has a great opportunity to contribute to the further growth and development of the global basketball community.”

Saitama Super Arena has a capacity of 36,500 and hosts a range of other sports alongside basketball.

Image: Kakidai