Raptors to Play in 2019-20 NBA Preseason Games in Japan

NBA fans in Japan can start the countdown. On Monday, the NBA and Rakuten, Inc. announced that the Toronto Raptors will play a pair of preseason games in Saitama City, Japan in October 2019. The Raptors will face the Houston Rockets in a pair of games slated to take place Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Saitama Super Arena. These games will be the league’s 13th and 14th games played in Japan. 

“The NBA has a long history in Japan, along with a passionate and knowledgeable fanbase,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “With one of the world’s largest economies and a thriving sports culture, we see enormous opportunity for growth in Japan, and we are pleased to partner with Rakuten to continue our tradition of bringing the live, authentic game experience to Japanese fans.”

Between 1990 and 2003, the league has staged 12 regular-season games in Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama. The match-up between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz played in Tokyo on Nov. 2, 1990 was the first regular-season game played outside of North America by a U.S. Sports league.

This will be Toronto’s first time visiting Japan, and the second visit for the Rockets, who previously visited in 1992 for a pair of regular-season opening games in Yokohama. Toronto is currently led by 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, five-time All-Star Kyle Lowry and three-time All-Star Marc Gasol.  

“The Raptors are proud to represent the NBA, Canada, and the city of Toronto as we head to Tokyo in October,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said. “You have only to look at our organization to know that we truly believe basketball is a global game.  We come from all over the world, and we are all connected through the love of our sport.  We are looking forward to sharing that with basketball fans in Japan.”

Toronto’s current roster features five international players including Gasol (Spain), OG Anunoby (England), Chris Boucher (Canada), Serge Ibaka (Republic of Congo), and Pascal Siakam (Cameroon). 

The Rockets are currently led by 2018 Kia Most Valuable Player James Harden, nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, and 2017 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon. Rockets Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown also spoke to Houston’s appreciation of the NBA’s global reach.

“The Houston Rockets are honored to be chosen to represent the NBA in its long anticipated return to Japan,” Brown said. “Our organization has a great appreciation for our global fan base, and we enthusiastically embrace the NBA’s efforts to grow the game Internationally.  We look forward to seeing our fans in Tokyo this fall and participating in the Japan Games.” 

This announcement was made in Tokyo by Rakuten Founder and CEO Mickey Mikitani and NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy. Silver also participated in the announcement live from New York via video conference. 

“It is an honor to be able to bring the NBA games back to Japan alongside our partner the NBA, the top basketball league in the world,” Mikitani said. “Rakuten places an extremely high importance on its mission of empowering people and society through innovation, but I truly believe that sports also have the power to move individuals and society as a whole. The Japan Games slated for this fall will bring top-tier basketball players to the country, athletes who will inspire us all with their courage and passion for the game. Through our partnership with the NBA and through these NBA Japan Games, Rakuten has been granted a great opportunity to contribute to the growth and development of the sport of basketball in Japan.”

The NBA and Rakuten announced a groundbreaking partnership in 2017 when Rakuten became a global marketing partner of the NBA and the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games. Rakuten TV offers exclusive access to the NBA through it’s all-access subscription service, Rakuten NBA Special, and through NBA League Pass, the league’s premium live game subscription service.

“Our partnership with Rakuten has had a significant impact on the growth of the NBA in Japan,” NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy said. “Together we have expanded the availability of NBA games, introduced innovative content and conducted local fan activities. Bringing the live game experience back to Japan is a natural progression of our relationship with Rakuten and yet another example of how this partnership continues to bring our fans closer to the game.”

The NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten will be supported by a roster of marketing and merchandising partners. The games will be distributed live in Japan and reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital and social media platforms. In addition to the games being played, the league and its partners will also conduct interactive fan activities and be active in NBA Cares community outreach events.

Tickets will go on sale at a later date, but fans can register their interest in tickets and gain access to presale information by visiting nbaevents.com/japangames. Fans can also join the conversation by using #NBAJapanGames, #NBAJapanGames2019, #NBAJP, and #NBARakuten hashtags on their preferred social media platforms.

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