With the Summer Olympics just a few months away, anticipation is building ahead of the start of the men’s basketball event, which has been classed as a medal-winning sport since 1936. On July 25th, 12 nations will start their campaign, each with the dream of walking away as gold medallists. Having won the right to host the event, Japan are automatically able to compete in this summer’s basketball competition and will be hopeful of impressing in front of their home fans.  

On the face of it, few will expect the home nation to walk away victorious come the conclusion of the Tokyo-based event, especially given that the USA come into the Olympic sport as three-time consecutive gold medal winners according to https://www.espn.co.uk/nba/. However, there will still be pressure to perform.  

The Potential to Surpass Expectations? 

For many years, basketball has struggled to take off in Japan quite like it has in other countries around the globe, but that does not mean that they go into the summer event just to make up the numbers. Prior to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup that took place in China, the Japanese men’s national basketball team were ranked 48th in the world. Despite that, they were still able to qualify for the competition.  

Moreover, even though they failed to win any of their matches in Group E at the 2019 World Cup, they undoubtedly highlighted that the level of basketball within the country is on the rise with a string of competitive performances. One year on, however, there is a belief that, despite expectations being low, Japan can continue to showcase the improvements that have been made within the sport at the upcoming Summer Olympics.  

Crucially, the East Asian country has thrived from the development of more structured professional leagues, as per https://medium.com/, which have contributed to a higher level of competition and a more solid foundation for sustained future growth. The alterations to the structure of the sport demonstrate how popular basketball has become within Japan. In relation to this, online casinos, for example, such as Vera&John, offer on-court focused slot titles like Basketball Star, which can be enjoyed with bonuses through https://www.casinowings.com/ja/, and they are a prime indicator of how the game’s popularity has manifested following the formation of the B.League.

Have They Got the Star Power?  

As mentioned above, it has taken some for basketball to really establish itself as a popular sport in Japan, but now it is starting to grow increasingly popular, the country is producing stars who are showcasing their talents within the NBA, the sport’s most popular league.

Rui Hachimura, who was born in Toyama in 1998, started his career at the Gonzaga Bulldogs at college level, before being selected by the Washington Wizards during the 2019 draft. Since transitioning to the National Basketball Federation, the small forward has become a star in Japan, with many pinning their hopes of an impressive Olympic run on the 2019 WCC Player of the Year.

Furthermore, the 22-year-old is not just a sign of how far the foundations have come for success within basketball in Japan, but also the extent to which the country has grown fond of the game and their national players, with reports from the East Asian country stating that Hachimura is receiving wall-to-wall coverage across advertising and media.

Anything Can Happen in Sport  

While, on paper, the United States are favourites to defend their gold medals for the fourth time, the unpredictability of sport means that nothing is a guarantee. Although claiming gold may, at this stage, be out of reach for Japan, the minimum expectation will be to perform with pride and capture the hearts of the sport’s global audience.