Why is basketball so popular in Japan?

Certainly, Japan is not the country of basketball, but it is also a long way from being a place that keeps its distance from the sport. In fact, there are some movements that prove the exact opposite.

Over the years, the sport began to conquer its place in the hearts of the Japanese and this did not happen by chance. They were small seeds sprouting little by little in the daily lives of the people of that country.

But do you really know what happened to get to the current scenario and what this scenario actually is? Follow along to find out a little more about Japan's relationship with basketball. 

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Japan and Basketball: How It All Began

If you believe that the country's relationship has always been like this fan of the orange ball, you are very wrong. Little ant work has been done since the last century. The path trodden passed by the manga artist, in the 90s, until it reached today. But there was much more than these two factors with relevance in the middle of the road:

  • Japan hosting the Basketball World Championship in 2006;
  • Appearance of Japanese players in the NBA;
  • Creation of national championships such as the B. League.

Let's get to know a little about each topic to trace the history of the sport in the nation.

Basketball game in japan

Takehiko Inoue, the designer

We can say that Takehiko was the great precursor of sport in Japan, even though he was not an athlete. It all happened in the early 90s, when the designer made a manga that had the game as its theme.

Called Slam Dunk, this was a manga series that revolved around a Japanese high school basketball team. The story became a fever and the estimate was that, shortly after its emergence, the number of basketball practitioners in Japan jumped to 5 out of 6 young people. This was, literally, the biggest and strongest influence that the country had to turn to sports and it still bears fruit today, more than 30 years later.

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World Basketball Championship - 2006

In 2006, Japan hosted the Basketball World Championship organized by FIBA together with the Japan Basketball Association. Previously, the competition took place with 16 competitors, however, this year, it became with 24 selections.

Japan qualified as host country and 7 other countries had the opportunity to be part of the tournament. In the edition in question, the champion was the team of Spain, with Japan in 20th place (just after Brazil, which was in 19th).

Japan. Aug 03

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Japanese players in the NBA

Perhaps you haven't heard of them, but there are some Japanese players who have reached the highest level in their career for an athlete in the sport: they made it to the NBA. In the understated manner known to the Japanese, players were cast and played their roles in some games. They were:

1. Rui Hachimura: this is the name of the biggest Japanese star in the NBA. He already has more than 100 games in the League and has been with the Washington Wizards ever since. The player still has a great future ahead of him and promises his countrymen to be the face of the sport in the nation.

2. Cam Thomas: Most recent in the league, Cam was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets in 2021. An NBA rookie, he has only had about 50 appearances for the team and still has a great future ahead of him. This is a name that will certainly still shine brightly on the courts.

3. Yuta Watanabe: currently playing for the Toronto Raptors, Watanabe arrived in the NBA in 2018 with the Memphis Grizzlies.

4. Yuki Togashi: the little guy who made the noise. Hired in 2014 by the Dallas Mavericks, the player held the rank of smallest player in the League. Unfortunately, the whole frenzy only lasted one year, causing the athlete to leave the NBA in 2015.

B. League

In 2016, Japan decided to create a professional men's basketball league. It is affiliated with FIBA and emerged as a result of a merger, required by FIBA, of the National Basketball League with Japan Professional Basketball. Since then, the tournament has three divisions, in which the first two have 18 teams each and move with a promotion and relegation system. 

Of course there are numerous other factors to increase the popularity of the sport in the country. Japanese schools strongly encourage the practice of various sports with their school clubs.

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