Home Japanese warriors Yuta Watanabe should make the nets even bigger in Japan

Yuta Watanabe should make the nets even bigger in Japan

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With Yuta Watanabe now seemingly safe on the Nets’ roster, expect Brooklyn to be an even bigger hit in Japan than in the past…and they were already No. 2 behind Watanabe’s Raptors in jersey sales last year and Watanabe the clear No. 1 among all NBA players, just ahead of Steph Curry.

Watanabe is actually one of two Japanese-born players on the Nets. Cam Thomas was born in a US military hospital in Yokosuka where his mother was stationed at the time. But Thomas returned to the United States, specifically to the tidal region of Virginia. Watanabe is one of the most popular athletes in Japan, playing for the national team, regularly connecting with his compatriots in Japanese on social media where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.

On Media Day and Day 1 of the camp, Japanese media were present in large numbers. There were about 15 journalists – television and print media representing some of Japan’s biggest media brands – on hand at the HSS training center. Compare that to Australia which had three Australian-born players on HSS pitches, but only one journalist.

Watanabe spoke at length in his native language with reporters about his enthusiasm for joining the Nets and where he sees himself fitting in.

The timing for the Nets and Watanabe is good. His move to the NBA’s biggest media market comes as the league attempts to build a stronger presence in Japan.

Among the major Asian economies, the reach of the NBA is felt the most in the Philippines. That is, as Joel Rush writing for Forbes Sports noted, the numbers for the archipelago are by far the best, not just in Asia, but anywhere outside of the United States. , by far the highest percentage of any country outside the United States, and more than double the 30% interest for Canada, which has had one or more teams in the league since 1995. And at 38% , China has the second highest level of interest.

But Japan, with its huge economy, is barely seen in the NBA landscape. A relatively small 6% of people consider professional basketball their favorite sport, Rush wrote. The NBA hopes to maintain its dominance in China and the Philippines while increasing awareness – and revenue – in Japan.

In pre-season, the Warriors and Wizards (which feature fellow Japanese NBA player Rui Hachimura) played two games in Saitama, not far from Tokyo, selling out its 36,500-seat “super arena”.

“The purpose of these games is to deepen our connection with the Japanese fans,” NBA Asia general manager Ramez Sheikh told Boardroom’s Anthony Puccio at the time. “The international games not only allow us to bring the excitement of the NBA to fans who may never have had the opportunity to attend an NBA game, but partners, media and celebrities looking forward to these games.”

Sheikh also told Pooch that interest had to be driven by homegrown players like Watanabe and Hachimura if things were to improve. How long will Watanabe have with the Nets? He played well in pre-season, showing his generally strong defense with improved 3-point shooting, passing 5 of 11, 45.4%.

Steve Nash thinks he could see plenty of minutes, telling reporters on Sunday the 6’9″ striker can play with “any group” of players and praised his sense of the game. team went further when the Nets signed Watanabe, saying he should be “celebrated”.

In his comments to Japanese reporters on Media Day, Watanabe said he thought he could contribute. “I don’t think it will be that easy again this year, but I think if I do my job well I can get some good results. It’s difficult, but I hope I can enjoy it and continue.

If he does, he won’t just help the Nets win. It could make them even more of the Japan team.