Basketball / B. League

Jets star Yuki Togashi breaks ¥100 million barrier

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Chiba Jets Funabashi star Yuki Togashi has become a “Million Dollar Man.”

The diminutive point guard became the first Japanese player to earn an annual salary of over ¥100 million ($923,000), the B. League club announced at a Tokyo news conference on Monday night.

Jets president Shinji Shimada said Togashi will earn at least that amount with his base salary and may earn more from performance-based incentives.

The club’s disclosure of Togashi’s salary for the 2019-20 season is a rarity in Japanese sports, where wages are generally not publicized. Wage structures for foreign players in the B. League, which concluded its third season last month, are different from those of Japanese players.

“I thought a lot about whether or not to make (my salary) public,” Togashi said. “But in order to provide some dreams to the children who are hoping to play basketball or are already playing basketball, I made up my mind to announce it.”

Togashi, who guided the Jets to a league-best 52-8 record in the 2018-19 campaign, insisted that although he’ll get more attention going forward, he has the confidence to overcome the pressure and continue his development as a player.

After he played high-school ball at Maryland’s Montrose Christian School, the 167-cm player signed with the Akita Northern Happinets of the bj-league, one of the B. League’s predecessors, midway through the 2013-14 season.

On Monday Togashi expressed delight at how far he’d progressed since then, revealing that his salary that season was ¥1 million using the league’s early-entry system.

“I didn’t accomplish this just by myself,” said Togashi, who was named the B. League MVP for the 2018-19 season. “It has had a lot to do with my teammates, my staff and coaches and I’m sitting right here because of them. Now that I’ve announced this, I’ve got to continue to play well and contribute to Japanese basketball off the court.”

Shimada stressed that Chiba’s decision to reward Togashi came not only from his dedication on the floor, but also from the star’s business value, contribution to club sponsors and media exposure.

“We don’t have detailed data, but his business contributions to the club stand out,” said Shimada, who added that the Jets are expected to have earned over ¥1.7 billion in revenue during the 2018-19 season. Shimada anticipates that amount will reach between ¥1.8 and ¥1.9 billion next year.

B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa said the league “wasn’t able to predict” the timing of a domestic player breaking the ¥100 million barrier when it kicked off three years ago.

“But when we look back now … I think it’s come at the right time,” Okawa said.

According to data revealed by the B. League Monday, Japanese players in the top division earned an average of ¥13.1 million ($121,000) last season — up from ¥8.2 million in the league’s first season and ¥10.6 million in the second.

The ¥100 million figure is significant in Japanese sports. During the 1986 offseason, Hiromitsu Ochiai became the first Japanese player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to top that amount when he signed a contract with the Chunichi Dragons, going on to earn ¥130 million in the 1987 season.

Okawa hinted that a Japanese player was “relatively close” to the ¥100 million mark before Togashi.