Raptors, Rockets to Play Two Preseason Games in Japan in 2019
In an effort to accelerate the growth of basketball worldwide and particularly in the Asian continent, the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets will play two preseason games in Japan next season. The contests will reportedly take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo on Oct.8 and Oct. 10.
The #NBA announced today that the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets will play two preseason games in Japan in October 2019. The #NBAJapanGames2019 will take place Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Thursday, Oct. 10.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) March 5, 2019
“Bringing NBA preseason 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,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The games will mark the NBA’s first venture to Japan in 16 years. Interestingly, between 1990-2003, the NBA held 12 regular season games in the country, including a clash between the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz on Nov.2, 1990, which happened to be the first regular season contest plated outside North America by a major American sports league.
A franchise particularly known for it’s global footprint, this will be the Raptors first time visiting Japan. “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.”
For the Rockets, this will be their second time playing in Japan. “The Houston Rockets are honoured to be chosen to represent the NBA in its long anticipated return to Japan,” said Rockets Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown. “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.”
The announcement of the NBA playing games in Japan is closely linked with the NBA and Rakuten announcing a ground-breaking 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.
“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 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 hopes this will be the start of many more trips, not only to Japan, but elsewhere around the globe as well.