Basketball

FIBA on fast track to fully lift Japan Basketball Association ban in August

Japan national teams get OK to compete in international events

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

FIBA’s suspension of the Japan Basketball Association has “practically” been lifted and its national teams are again permitted to participate in international competitions, JBA president and Japan 2024 Task Force co-chairman Saburo Kawabuchi told reporters in Tokyo on Friday night.

Kawabuchi said that the JBA still needs final approval from FIBA during its upcoming Central Board meeting, which the sport’s world governing body will hold in Tokyo in early August. But he added that FIBA has decided to allow the JBA to resume its international activities.

This decision was made during a two-day Executive Board meeting, held on Thursday and Friday, at FIBA headquarters in Mies, Switzerland, before the aforementioned scheduled event later this summer, when the official ruling to authorize the ban’s end will be on the agenda.

Kawabuchi confirmed the news from JBA secretary general Masaaki Okawa, who flew to FIBA headquarters along with Masaki Sakaida, a task force member and lawyer, to report on the progress of the task force’s work.

“(Okawa told me that) FIBA assessed highly what we’ve done in this short period,” Kawabuchi said. “(Task force co-chair and FIBA treasurer Ingo) Weiss was saying that he was pleased to see that we’ve merged the two leagues into one, agreeing to build 5,000-seat arenas, and we were fast to head into the right direction in a short period of time.”

Since 2005, Japan has had two men’s professional leagues, the JBA-backed NBL (or its predecessor, the JBL) and the upstart bj-league, despite repeated demands from FIBA to unify them. This was one of the major reasons cited for FIBA’s suspension of the JBA last November along with its lack of governance.

In late January, the task force was formed and it has tackled those issues so the suspension could be lifted, which would allow Japan’s national teams to compete in the FIBA Asia Championships, which serve as Olympic qualifiers for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.

Speaking at the JFA House, Kawabuchi, a former Japan Football Association chairman and one of the J. League’s founders, clearly looked relieved to have heard the long-awaited news. He said that when he accepted the task force co-chair’s job, he thought it would be a daunting task to merge the two circuits in such a limited time.

“The task force was formed in the end of January and we only had four months to resolve all the issues,” Kawabuchi said. “I had a little doubt if we could really do that, because it hadn’t been resolved for more than 10 years.

“But because we only had a short time, we had no choice but to make drastic measures, and fortunately everybody understood them positively. So I feel like Japanese basketball can do it if they wanted to, and I’m extremely happy about that.”

Although he endured a lot of sleepless nights that raised his blood pressure during the suspension period, Kawabuchi still believed that it would be beneficial for all of Japanese basketball moving forward, noting now it has a chance to change and be reborn.

“If we won’t change after this, when will we change?” Kawabuchi insisted.

Japan’s men’s and women’s national teams have already started their training camps for the upcoming Asia Championships.