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Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green draws crowds in first Japan visit

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green revealed that he was persuaded by Rakuten chairman Hiroshi Mikitani to come to Japan.

“This is like my fourth NBA trip that I’ve done over the summer,” the three-time NBA champion said at a news conference on Saturday at the Tokyo headquarters of Rakuten, which launched a global partnership with the NBA while it became a sponsor for the Western Conference club last year.

“And obviously, with the partnership of Rakuten and Golden State Warriors, I’ve got a chance to make it. And (Mikitani) said to me all year like ‘You’ve got to come to Japan, you’ve got to come to Japan.’ It’s amazing. And I’ve always heard about great things (about Japan). So this is definitely a trip that I wanted to take.”

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook also made his first trip to Japan last month, and Green’s teammate Steph Curry will visit as part of a promotional tour of Under Armour early this week.

Green might be considered one of the best sidekicks in the league with his all-around basketball ability, but he still drew many enthusiastic fans at his various appearances alongside the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Following his news conference, the 28-year-old participated in a “Draymond Green shooting challenge” event, taking on both boys and adults in shooting contests and hosting a small talk show at a temporarily half court near the Rakuten building.

Fans arrived hours ahead of the afternoon event, filling the venue to capacity. Those not amongst the hundreds of attendees could be seen attempting to catch a glimpse from outside.

Green also visited Brex Arena Utsunomiya on Sunday to make a guest appearance before the final of the 2018 B. League Early Cup Kanto, a preseason tournament contested by Japan’s professional clubs.

After a successful first visit to Japan, three-time All-Star and one-time Defensive Player of the Year, who earned gold for the United States at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, indicated that he would attempt to be a part of Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Green found it tough to compare winning an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal, adding that “both are spectacular” and feel great because “you are the last man standing.”

The Michigan native praised superstar LeBron James, against whom he has competed in the last four NBA Finals.

While the two are known as trash-talking rivals on the court, they are friends in the boardroom through a partnership in digital media platform company Uninterrupted.

“If you look at things he’s done over the course of his career, the ways to carry himself, the ways to run his business off the court, the ways he takes care of his body,” Green said of the four-time NBA MVP, who moved from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, “I think he’s kind of led the blueprint, not only for myself, but for many athletes, for years to come.

“Off the floor, definitely I look up to him and kind of watch a lot of things that he do. He’s so successful, on and off the basketball court. I think, honestly, you’d be crazy to not call him the blueprint.”