Tokyo and New York, March 5, 2019 – Rakuten, Inc. and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that the Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets will play two preseason games in Japan in October 2019. The NBA Japan Games 2019 Presented by Rakuten will take place Tuesday, October 8 and Thursday, October 10 at Saitama Super Arena and will mark the league’s 13th and 14th games in Japan.
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 and more by visiting the NBA Japan Games 2019 pre-registration page: https://tv.rakuten.co.jp/static/nba_japan_games_2019/ for fans living in Japan and nbaevents.com/japangames for fans worldwide.
The announcement was made today in Tokyo by Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani and NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy. Mikitani commented, “Rakuten is committed to its mission of empowering people and society through innovation, and our partnership with the NBA is motivated by the power sports have to move individuals and society as a whole. By bringing the NBA games to Japan this fall, Rakuten has a great opportunity to contribute to the further growth and development of the global basketball community.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who participated in the announcement from New York via live video conference, remarked, “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,” said Silver. “Building on our long history in Japan, we are pleased to partner with Mickey and his team at Rakuten to share the authentic, live game experience with the NBA’s growing Japanese fan base.”
Levy commented, “Our partnership with Rakuten has had a significant impact on the growth of the NBA in Japan. 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.”
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 U.S. sports league.
The Rockets, who previously visited Japan in 1992 when they played two regular-season opening games in Yokohama, currently feature 2018 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden, nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, and 2017 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon. The Raptors, who will be making their first visit to Japan, are currently led by 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, five-time NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry, and three-time NBA All-Star Marc Gasol.
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 by Rakuten and will reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital and social media. In addition to the games, the league and its partners will conduct interactive fan activities and NBA Cares community outreach events that will bring the NBA experience to fans 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, Rakuten’s video-on-demand service, currently offers viewers in Japan exclusive access to the 2018-19 season games through its all-access subscription service, Rakuten NBA Special. Additionally, Rakuten operates the NBA Zone (https://event.rakuten.co.jp/nba/) on its internet shopping mall Rakuten Ichiba, featuring select NBA and team merchandise.
The NBA’s presence in Japan dates back almost 30 years. NBA games and programming have been on-the-air in Japan since the 1988-89 season, and officially licensed NBA merchandise is widely available at more than 180 Xebio stores across Japan 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, Basketball Without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program.
Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri remarked, “The Raptors are proud to represent the NBA, Canada and the city of Toronto as we head to Tokyo in October. 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.”
Houston Rockets Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown commented, “The Houston Rockets are honored to be chosen to represent the NBA in its long anticipated return to Japan. 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.”