Japan’s Rui Hachimura and the Washington Wizards will play the Golden State Warriors in two NBA pre-season games at Tokyo before the 2022-23 campaign begins, the league announced Monday.
The games, the first NBA contests held outside North America since the pandemic, will be played September 30 and October 2 at Saitama Super Arena and mark the NBA’s 15th and 16th contests staged in Japan.
It’s a signal sport is returning to an era not seen since the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily shut down the league two years ago.
“Having our teams resume international travel is a sign we’re getting back to a more normal way of life,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “The fact we can bring NBA basketball to other continents again is extremely encouraging.”
Hachimura, in his third season with the Wizards, became the first player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2019.
“I’m very much looking forward to playing in Japan as a member of the NBA Washington Wizards,” Hachimura said.
The 24-year-old forward is averaging 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds a game this season for Washington, which has talent from eight different nations.
“He’s not only developing into a star NBA player but we’ve watched him develop, drafted him and we see the gifts and skills he developed growing up in Japan,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said.
“We know the people in Japan are loving the NBA action and the Wizards have become a must-see watch because of Rui Hachimura.”
The six-time NBA champion Warriors feature star guard Stephen Curry, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and five-time All-Star backcourt partner Klay Thompson, while the Wizards also feature All-Stars Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis.
“I’m very excited to experience basketball internationally again and to play games in front of some amazing fans in Japan,” Curry said.
NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy said the league’s top priority was to conduct games safely for players and spectators with regard to Covid-19.
“We’re confident things are moving in the right direction,” Levy said.
Both teams will be making their first visit to Japan.
“We are extremely appreciative that the NBA has selected the Warriors and the Wizards, two franchises with illustrious histories in our league, to tip off the 2022 NBA pre-season in Japan, home of some of the most incredibly passionate NBA fans in the world,” said Warriors chief executive officer Joe Lacob.
From 1990-2003, the NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan at Saitama City, Tokyo and Yokohama. Utah and Phoenix met in 1990 in the first regular-season contest by a US sports league played outside North America.
The most recent NBA games in Japan were in 2019, when the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors met there for two pre-season games.
Japan also will co-host the 2023 Basketball World Cup with Indonesia and the Philippines.