In an unprecedented move, the professional basketball bj-league has issued a ban on media access by The Japan Times for the entire 2013-14 season. The directive has been relayed to teams around the country by the league office, the newspaper has learned.

The Japan Times was informed of the move in a letter signed by commissioner Toshimitsu Kawachi and league president Hidemitsu Nakano on Oct. 11. The letter stated that The Japan Times will not be granted season credentials — as it had for the first eight league campaigns — or single-game passes due to a dispute over an article by staff writer Ed Odeven on July 12 regarding the Kyoto Hannaryz.

In the story in question, Odeven cited an informed source as saying that at the time the Hannaryz were planning to play one more season in the bj-league before jumping to the newly formed National Basketball League. Both the Hannaryz and bj-league officials were given the opportunity to comment on the report before it was published.

In its initial letter of complaint, bj-league officials took issue with the story and asked for a correction and an apology to be run in print.

The Japan Times denied the request and stands by its story.

In the previous three seasons, three different bj-league franchises have either folded (Tokyo Apache, Miyazaki Shining Suns) or moved to the NBL (Chiba Jets). Furthermore, there has been constant speculation that other teams may depart the 21-team bj-league.

The Japan Times has covered the bj-league since its inception, beginning with the news conference announcing its formation in November 2004 in Tokyo. The newspaper has been the journal of record on league happenings ever since, chronicling both the highs and lows of the fledgling circuit, which boasts nearly 100 foreign players and coaches — more than any other pro sports league in the country.

Over the years the bj-league, which began with six teams for the inaugural 2005-06 season, has seen the likes of NBA coaches Bob Hill and Bill Cartwright, and former NBA players like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and David Benoit.

In spite of the ban, The Japan Times will continue bringing readers comprehensive coverage of action both on and off the court this season.

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