Japan League Standing
Players were upbeat and enthusiastic, and a positive vibe filled the room.
And what else could be expected?
The new league, featuring the 18-team first division and 18-team second division (and a less-heralded third division), offers a new opportunity to unite the nation’s basketball fans under one umbrella.
With this new era of Japan pro basketball just days away from officially getting underway, a collective sense of excitement carried 18 first-division team representatives and B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa during a Monday news conference, dubbed the “B. League Tipoff Conference, ” which doubled as a fashion show, that was festive and informative.
The Alvark Tokyo and Ryukyu Golden Kings meet in the opener next Thursday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:55 p.m. Fuji TV will broadcast the game.
Three generations of Japanese hoop standouts were represented during events staged at an upscale Tokyo hotel, with 46-year-old shooting guard Takehiko Orimo of the Levanga Hokkaido, Tochigi Brex point guard Yuta Tabuse, who turns 36 on Oct. 5, and 23-year-old Chiba Jets playmaker Yuki Togashi in the spotlight alongside 15 other players.
Never before had this snapshot of the new era been presented before a large gathering of the nation’s media and special guests, including Japan Basketball Association officials.
Standing on a stage, each player made a few general remarks after Okawa’s opening statements. Orimo, the elder statesman of Japan’s pro players, went first, followed by Sendai 89ers floor leader Takehiko Shimura, Shigehiro Taguchi of the Akita Northern Happinets and then Tabuse.
Orimo recognized the significance of the B. League’s inaugural season, which, after the unification of the bj-league, NBL and NBDL, shifts the focus from the sport’s previously scattered interests to a singular entity.
“The league finally starts in this way and I’m pleased about it as a player, ” said Orimo, whose post-collegiate hoop career began in 1993. “I have some worries with it, too, but I think that this is a first step for basketball to become a major sport like baseball and soccer.”
As for Levanga, who will play in the six-team East, Orimo said the northern club is determined to put forth a strong effort. “We only have 10 players (for now), ” he said, “but we are going to play as hard as we can with all guys and we are going to proceed with our fans.”
Interestingly, Tabuse, speaking with TV cameras surrounding him, made this request — delivered as a message after being prompted by the media — to supporters of the now-disbanded NBL (the JBL’s successor), saying, “Please like the B. League.”