NBA to resume overseas fixtures with Japan games

The NBA basketball league will head to Japan for two pre-season games in September and October, which will mark its first fixtures outside of North America in more than two and a half years.

The Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards will play two games at the Saitama Super Arena on September 30 and October 2. The NBA Japan Games 2022, which will be sponsored by Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, will mark the league’s 15th and 16th games in the country.

The NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan between 1990 and 2003, with Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama all hosting fixtures. The NBA last visited Japan in 2019, when the league partnered with Rakuten to bring the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors to the country for two pre-season games.

Rakuten has been a global marketing partner of the NBA since 2017 and serves as the league’s exclusive live-game distribution partner in Japan. The company, which is an official partner of the Warriors, also operates the NBA Zone, which features select league and team merchandise.

The last overseas NBA game took place on January 24, 2020, when the Milwaukee Bucks faced off against the Charlotte Hornets at Paris’ Accor Arena. The league’s last overseas pre-season games took place in India, China and Japan in October 2019.

The Wizards’ team currently features Rui Hachimura, who in 2019 became the first Japanese player in NBA history to be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. The Warriors and Wizards have never played in Japan before.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “We are excited to once again bring pre-season games to our fans in Japan. There is great momentum around NBA basketball in the country and we thank Mickey (Mikitani, Rakuten chairman and chief executive) and Rakuten for their continued efforts to further grow the sport.”

Scott Levy, managing director of NBA Asia, added: “Since 2017, Rakuten has brought the excitement of the NBA directly to fans in Japan through a variety of unique experiences, including as the league’s exclusive distribution partner.

“Through this latest chapter in our longstanding partnership, the NBA and Rakuten will offer Japanese fans the opportunity to witness a thrilling matchup between the Warriors and the Wizards in an event that promises to be a singular moment for Japanese basketball.”

In November, the NBA detailed plans to play in the Arabian Gulf for the first time, with Abu Dhabi set to stage two games later this year. The pre-season games will be staged in October, although the dates and teams involved are yet to be confirmed.

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