WASHINGTON, D.C. – The NBA and Rakuten Group, Inc., today announced that the Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors will play two preseason games in Japan in 2022.
“We are so honored to represent the NBA and the wonderful game of basketball in front of an audience of Japanese fans,” said Ted Leonsis, Founder & CEO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “We are particularly excited to watch Rui Hachimura play in front of his fellow Japanese citizens. We were proud to welcome him into the DC Family nearly three years ago as a dynamic young talent and have only seen his growth as a player since. And our fans across our home market in Washington D.C. have a special connection to the Japanese people – marked by our annual celebration of the gift of cherry trees given to our city by the Mayor of Tokyo over 100 years ago. Celebrating American and Japanese cultures further strengthens our bonds and so we look forward to taking on the Golden State Warriors and growing new fans of the sport we all love.”
The NBA Japan Games 2022 Presented by Rakuten will take place Friday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 2 at Saitama Super Arena outside of Tokyo, marking the Wizards’ first trip to Japan and the league’s 15th and 16th games in the country.
“I am very excited to bring Wizards basketball to Japan,” said Hachimura. “I cannot wait to see the arena filled with fans getting to see NBA basketball in person.”
Below is information on the team’s robust global outreach efforts and history as well as information on the NBA Japan Games 2022.
WIZARDS GLOBAL REACH
- The Wizards selected Rui Hachimura with the ninth overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, making him the first Japanese player in league history to be drafted in the first round.
- The Wizards have six rostered players born outside the U.S., tied for the fourth-most in the NBA.
- Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Washington has rostered 14 players born outside the U.S., the third-most in the NBA.
- Countries represented: Israel, France, Latvia, Germany, Colombia, Japan, Ukraine, Brazil, Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.
- In recent seasons, the Wizards have held numerous theme nights at Capital One Arena celebrating cultures and traditions around the world, featuring performances, giveaways and special guests. The eight heritage nights for the 2021-22 season: Greek, Lithuanian, French, Jewish, Japanese, Latinx, Filipino and Latvian. The Wizards are also recognizing Chinese New Year and the Cherry Blossom Festival with theme nights.
- The Wizards have a long history of growing the game through international travel. In January 2019, the Wizards beat the New York Knicks in a regular season game played at The O2 Arena in London; the trip included Wizards staff, alumni and members of the Washington Mystics and Wizards DG participating in business and community initiatives. During the 2013 preseason, the Wizards played the Chicago Bulls in Rio de Janeiro in what was the first-ever NBA game played in Brazil. During the 2008 preseason, the Wizards played games against the New Orleans Hornets in Berlin and Barcelona. In 1979, the Washington Bullets became the first NBA team to visit China, touring Beijing and Shanghai and scrimmaging against the Chinese national team. In 2009 – on the 30th anniversary of the trip – players, alumni (including Wes Unseld and Gheorge Muresan) and staff returned to China for a series of basketball clinics.
- The Wizards’ list of corporate partners includes several that are headquartered globally: Alibaba, the Embassy of Qatar, Energix, Etihad Airways, NEC, ORG Packaging and the UAE Embassy.
WIZARDS GLOBAL DIGITAL EFFORTS
- In addition to the team’s domestic social presence, the Wizards operate three additional global digital channels in Japanese, Chinese and Hebrew. JAPAN: The team’s Japanese social media accounts have a total following of over 100K fans and surpassed 405 million impressions, 61 million video views and 30 million engagements on Twitter after two years. CHINA: The team’s account on Weibo, the Chinese social platform, has 2.5 million followers and has continued to develop its content effort, connecting players and Chinese fans more than any prior season. ISRAEL: The team’s Israeli social platforms, which include the first-ever NBA team Israeli Twitter account, have nearly 25K followers and engagement metrics have soared recently as Deni Avdija’s career continues to grow.
- The Wizards podcast presence also has a global reach, including the Wizards Global Podcast and The Wizraeli Podcast. At the time of their launch, the Wizards were the only team in the NBA to host team podcasts in multiple languages.
NBA JAPAN GAMES 2022 INFORMATION
- The NBA Japan Games 2022 Presented by Rakuten will livestream in Japan on the NBA Rakuten service and will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital media and social media.
- Leading up to the games, the league and its partners will also conduct interactive fan activities, Jr. NBA programming and NBA Cares community outreach initiatives.
- Tickets for the games will go on sale at a later date. Fans can register their interest in tickets and gain access to presale information HERE.
NBA HISTORY IN JAPAN
- Between 1990 and 2003, the NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan in Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama.
- The matchup between the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz in Tokyo on Nov. 2, 1990 marked the first regular-season game played outside of North America by a U.S. sports league.
- The NBA last played games in Japan in 2019, when Rakuten and the NBA partnered to bring the Houston Rockets and the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors to the country for two preseason games.
- The NBA’s presence in Japan dates back more than 30 years. NBA games and programming have aired in Japan since the 1988-89 season, and officially licensed NBA merchandise is widely available at more than 700 retail stores across the country and through NBAStore.jp, the official online NBA store in Japan.
- In addition to live games, the league has conducted a number of events in Japan, including interactive fan events, NBA Cares community outreach initiatives, and in 2012 and 2019, Basketball Without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program,