Basketball / B. League

Levanga veteran Takehiko Orimo doesn't want special treatment for All-Star curtain call

by Kaz Nagatsuka

STAFF WRITER

Japanese basketball’s own living legend Takehiko Orimo says that he would absolutely be honored if he gets the nod. But he does not want the occasion to be a farewell stage.

The 49-year-old, who has announced plans to retire at the end of the 2019-20 season, has a strong chance to make the roster through fan voting for the B. League All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 18 at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.

Orimo led eligible guards for “B.Black” team with 18,828 votes as of Sunday night, slightly edging national team regular Makoto Hiejima.

Players at the All-Star Game will be divided into the B. White and B.Black teams based on last year’s standings, with Orimo’s Levanga Hokkaido allocated to B.Black.

If he winds up being chosen after voting concludes on Nov. 25, Orimo is eager to compete. But the veteran, who won eight All-Star MVP awards in eight appearances during the Japan Basketball League era, insisted that he does not want to be treated as a special attraction.

“It’s not my All-Star Game,” Orimo said during a news conference at the B. League office on Monday. “While there are many other great players that people want to see, they’ve voted for me. That means they want to see me play and it means a lot to me. But otherwise, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to play.

“I don’t want to be there as a recommended player by the league. I don’t want to ruin the atmosphere of the All-Star Game. But if I will be chosen on the fan voting, I’ll do my best.”

Orimo thinks that hosting the All-Star Game will be a great opportunity to promote the game throughout the northern prefecture and promote Levanga nationwide.

The 49-year-old, who also serves as Hokkaido’s president, noted that while sports culture has taken root in Hokkaido, it has been represented by NPB’s Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the J. League’s Consadole Sapporo.

Through the All-Star Game, which has most recently been hosted in Kumamoto and Toyama, he hopes to lift the Levanga, who are 7-7 to start the season, to a similar level of recognition.

“It’s been 13 years since I came to Hokkaido,” said Orimo, who had previously played for Alvark Tokyo predecessors Toyota Motors and competed in the 1998 and 2006 FIBA World Championship. “And it will be my last All-Star Game. There’s a lot of children there that want to play in the B. League one day. It’ll be a great opportunity for them to see great players in person. And it will be a great chance for the game to take even deeper root in Hokkaido. Hopefully (visiting fans) will be able to enjoy Hokkaido’s sightseeing and food as well.”

Orimo, an exceptional shooter who has averaged 1.0 point per game in three games this season, said that the Levanga would host public viewing sites for the All-Star Game in Hakodate, Asahikawa and Obihiro among other cities.

SeaHorses Mikawa small forward Kosuke Kanamaru leads fan voting with 27,323, followed by Kawasaki Brave Thunders point guard Ryusei Shinoyama with 22,646. The two would play for the B.White. For the B.Black, American forward Ryan Rossiter of the Utsunomiya Brex is the top vote-getter thus far with 22,258.

The league will announce the final slate of 22 players selected through fan voting and league recommendations on Dec. 2. A 12th player for each team, to selected via social network voting, will be revealed on Dec. 4.