Japanese basketball has been plagued by negative news lately, like the FIBA suspension and managerial changes of the Tsukuba Robots and Wakayama Trians. But on this particular day, the players were all smiles for this mid-winter festivity.
Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins forward Amath M’Baye racked up 44 points to lead Team West to a 127-112 win over Team East in the NBL All-Star Game before a full-house crowd of 3,067 at Ota City General Gymnasium on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, we are all competitors,” M’Baye, who was named MVP of the game, said of his fired-up performance. “And we all want to win, regardless if it’s a game like the All-Star Game or not. And obviously I hate to lose. I hate to lose in a game, I hate to lose in practice, I hate to lose in the All-Star Game. I hate to lose a regular game. I just don’t like losing. I’m glad we came on top. I think we all had a lot of fun in front of the fans.”
M’Baye, a University of Oklahoma product who played in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas last July, has averaged a league-high 24.8 points in the regular season.
Aisin SeaHorses duo Gavin Edwards and Kosuke Kanamaru followed M’Baye with 25 and 21 points, respectively. Sharpshooter Kanamaru, who currently has the highest 3-point percentage (50.0 percent) in the league, went 7-for-12 from behind the 3-point line.
For the East, last season’s scoring champion Nick Fazekas, of the Toshiba Brave Thunders, had 22 points and 10 rebounds, followed by 44-year-old legendary shooter and Levanga Hokkaido guard/forward Takehiko Orimo, who had 18 points. Former NBA player and fan favorite Yuta Tabuse of the Link Tochigi Brex chipped in with nine points and a game-high 11 assists.
“We got beaten by M’Baye,” said Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita, who led the East team on Sunday, with a bitter smile. “He’s the kind of guy who’s really tough to stop, even if you’re prepared well against him. We came into this game with little scouting, and we just let (M’Baye) do whatever he wanted to do out there.”
Tabuse said: “It was a lot of fun to play along with the players who I usually don’t get to play with. Some guys were good at shooting and some were good at dunking, and we were able to show plays that we don’t normally do.”
Meanwhile, Daiki Terashita of the Trians and Kazuyuki Nakagawa of the Robots also received some of the spotlight because of what happened to their clubs earlier this season. The pair were the only players representing their respective teams in the All-Star Game.
Terashita was selected for the game as a last-minute substitution for Yu Abe, who decided to leave the Trians to become a free agent.
“I was happy to be here, because our team banner might not have been hung up there (inside the arena) today,” said Terashita, who had two points and six rebounds. “But our team will keep existing and I’m excited about it, and I’m sure our boosters are pleased as well.”
Before the All-Star Game, 3-point and slam dunk contests warmed up the audience.
Kanamaru put up 19 points to triumph in the 3-point contest, while M’Baye was crowned as the dunk king.
The NBL regular season will resume on Wednesday.