Tokyo, March 16, 2021 - Rakuten, Inc. and LivOn Global today announced a strategic partnership to support the management of Japanese international basketball star Yudai Baba, who belongs to Melbourne United in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). This groundbreaking partnership brings together the branding, athlete and sports property management expertise of Rakuten Sports, a Rakuten Group service, with the player representation expertise of LivOn Global, a National Basketball Association (NBA) licensed agency, to support a Japanese athlete performing on the international stage.
- Rakuten, Inc.
- LivOn Global
Rakuten to Power Japanese International Basketball Star Yudai Baba
Through this new partnership, Rakuten will harness its network and expertise to provide comprehensive support for Baba in Japan and the APAC region in his professional activities across brand endorsements, content creation and merchandising. LivOn Global continues as Baba’s player agent in all FIBA and NBA contract negotiations.
Yudai Baba commented, "I am pleased to be working with Rakuten, a company that’s dedicated to developing the sport of basketball in Japan and around the world. I am grateful to have Rakuten’s support as I chase my dream to become an NBA player. I'll do my best to invigorate Japanese basketball and to inspire the younger generations.”
Rakuten Director of Global Branding and Rakuten Sports VP Rahul Kadavakolu commented, “We are excited to work alongside Baba, a gifted athlete with tremendous potential making significant strides in the world of professional basketball. Rakuten is deeply committed to growing our sport business in Japan and around the world, leveraging the Rakuten Group’s strengths in content, commerce and community, and we look forward to supporting his continued success through this partnership.”
LivOn Global CEO Anita Smith remarked, “We believe Rakuten is the perfect partner for us to work with to build Baba’s brand and support his athletic career. In many ways Baba’s path mirrors Rakuten’s journey from a home-grown Japanese innovator to becoming an internationally recognized name.”
Prior to playing in the U.S., Baba played two seasons with Alvark Tokyo in the Japanese B.League. During Baba’s tenure with the team, he helped Alvark win two B.League Championships and earned the Finals MVP award. Baba is the first player in history to make the jump from the B.League to playing professionally in the U.S. In 2019 Baba played three preseason games with the Dallas Mavericks before moving to their affiliate G League team, the Texas Legends. He made the strategic decision to play in the Australian NBL after the NBA G League season was cancelled in March 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19.
Rakuten has already established a global sports network through a variety of initiatives including partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry, and FC Barcelona, as well as management of the Japanese professional soccer club Vissel Kobe and brand support for former FC Barcelona captain and current star Vissel Kobe player Andrés Iniesta. The partnership with LivOn Global and Baba builds on the momentum gained from Rakuten’s recent partnership with rising Japanese basketball star Yuki Kawamura, who plays for the Seagulls, the Tokai University men’s basketball team.
As part of its mission to empower people through sport, Rakuten will continue to support promising athletes and pursue a variety of initiatives that contribute to the further development of the world of sports.
Born: November 7, 1995 in Toyama Prefecture, Japan (25 years old)
Height: 196 cm
Weight: 90 kg
Current Team: Melbourne United (Australian NBL)
Yudai Baba’s unconventional path to international success is consistent with his philosophy on life. “Dream Big” says Baba, “you don’t have to follow other’s footsteps to succeed.” Prior to playing in the U.S., Baba played two seasons with Alvark Tokyo in the Japanese B.League. During Baba’s tenure with the team, he helped them win two B.League Championships and earned the Finals MVP award.
In July 2019 Baba was selected to play for the Dallas Mavericks at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he showcased his talents in front of NBA GMs and scouts. In September 2019 Baba played a key role on the Japan National Team at the FIBA World Cup in China. Baba was admired for his speed and athleticism throughout the tournament, scoring 18 points in the game against Team USA.
Following the World Cup, the Dallas Mavericks offered Baba an “Exhibit 10” contract which allowed him to attend their training camp and play with the Mavericks during the 2019-2020 preseason period. Baba played three preseason games wearing the Maverick’s jersey before moving to their affiliate G League team, the Texas Legends.
Baba made the strategic decision to play in the Australian NBL after the NBA G League season was cancelled in March 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. Like the G League, the NBL is a highly competitive league that is scouted extensively by NBA scouts. In this way, Baba is carving his own path forward in his march towards the NBA.
After arriving in Australia, Baba quickly made an impact, moving up from sixth man to starter on the #1 ranked Melbourne United team after only five games. Baba’s breakout game of the current NBL season came on February 7, 2021 when his defensive intensity, offensive prowess and innovative moves earned him recognition as “Player of the Game” in Melbourne United’s home game against the reigning NBL champions, the Perth Wildcats.
About LivOn Global
Licensed with the NBA, WNBA and FIBA, LivOn Global manages the careers of world class men and women athletes around the globe, on and off the court. LivOn Global, a division of LivOn Productions Ltd, has special expertise and extensive relationships in the USA, Australia/New Zealand, as well as markets throughout Europe and Asia, with a particular emphasis on Japan and South Korea.
About Rakuten Sports
Based in Singapore, Rakuten Sports is a Rakuten Group service that focuses on creating partnerships built on shared values with professional sports teams, athletes, brands and rights-holders.