B-ball and Japan 英会話・英語 アミック
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have come and gone. Unfortunately, I was only able to watch a few events from Tokyo 2020. I enjoyed skateboarding, the 100 meter dash, lots of swimming and basketball. In the USA, basketball is traditionally the second most popular sport, just behind American football. I was definitely more of a football fan, but was still able to watch lots of basketball games during the golden era of the NBA (mid-eighties-mid-nineties). This golden era is what I believe made basketball popular all over the world.
Basketball started gaining popularity in Europe in the late eighties and nineties, especially in countries like Spain, Croatia and Serbia. Yao Ming, who was a household name in China and an NBA player, made the NBA mainstream in China, which has their own professional league now. Basketball is also basically the national sport of the Philippines. While Japan has traditionally been a baseball country.
Though Japan has a strong love of baseball, other western sports have been gaining traction. Soccer, basketball, skateboarding and break dancing to name a few. How did basketball start to become popular in Japan? I can’t say exactly, but I wager that it was due to the golden era of the NBA and a child of that era- the internationally known Japanese comic book “Slam Dunk” by Takehiko Inoue. This comic book and later cartoon, change the course of basketball culture in Japan. It’s the story of a misfit high school freshman, Hanamichi, who joins the high school team to impress a girl, Haruko. He learns the game of basketball from zero, along with the reader. The comic book masterfully intertwines basketball rules, moves and terminology into the story, but in a very entertaining light-hearted way. Most Japanese people whom I talk to who were around high school age in the early nineties have read this comic book. It is still popular today.
From 2005, Japan started the BJ League (B = basketball J = Japan). It was a mix of foreign and Japanese athletes. In 2016, it was transformed into the B-League. The league is going strong. Ehime even has a B -League 3 team- The Orange Vikings. You can see them play at the Community Center. In addition to the B-League, two Japanese players have made it to the NBA- Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe. Last month a female player made it into the WNBA- Rui Machida. The Japanese Men’s Paralympic team also won silver medals in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Japan’s love and skill has come a long way in. Maybe all because of Michael Jordan’s 1990’s Bulls and a comic book named “Slam Dunk”.
I truly became a fan of basketball, when my daughter started playing mini basketball at her school. I was surprised to see how strong basketball culture is in Japan, even at a elementary school level. I’m excited to see how much more Japan progresses in basketball on the international stage in the future. I’m also extremely excited to watch the much anticipated Slam Dunk movie this autumn after a hiatus of over 25 years. If you’ve never read Slam Dunk, please give a try. Thank you.