North American basketball league the NBA has announced it will return to Japan for the first time since 2003, with the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets to play two preseason games at Saitama’s Super Arena on October 8 and October 10.
The NBA Japan Games 2019 presented by Rakuten will mark the league’s 13th and 14th games in the country and come ahead of Tokyo’s staging of the 2020 summer Olympic Games and Japan’s participation in the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China.
Between 1990 and 2003, the NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan in Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama. The match-up between the Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz in Tokyo on November 2, 1990 marked the first regular-season game played outside of North America by a US sports league.
Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten is backing the games having entered into a deal in October 2017, making it a global marketing partner of the NBA and the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games.
The NBA Japan Games 2019 will be supported by a roster of marketing and merchandising partners. In addition to the games, the league and its partners will conduct interactive fan activities and NBA Cares community outreach events that will seek to bring the NBA experience to fans in Japan.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “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.”
The NBA also has preseason games scheduled for India and China next season. The Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings will play the league’s first games in India, while the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers will play in China.
In other news, the NBA has announced that Yannick Colaco will step down as vice-president and managing director of its Indian division. Colaco has been in his current role at NBA India since February 2013.
NBA vice-president of global business operations, Diane Gotua, will relocate from New York to the NBA’s Mumbai office to lead the business in India on an interim basis and oversee the search for a new managing director of the NBA in India.