Basketball / B. League

Japanese basketball generates record revenue as B. League's growth continues

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The growth of Japanese basketball does not appear to be in danger of slowing down any time soon, according to financial data released by the B. League on Monday.

The league revealed that Japanese basketball generated ¥30.8 billion ($283 million) in revenue over the course of the 2018-19 season.

The figure includes the combined revenues of the Japan Basketball Association, the B. League and B. League clubs. The sum represents nearly three times the ¥10.5 billion ($96.5 million) generated in the 2015-16 campaign, which marked the conclusion of the National Basketball League and bj-league.

In improving on 2017-18 revenues by ¥3.5 billion ($32 million), the JBA and B. League have met their goal of exceeding ¥30 billion by the 2020-21 season a full two years in advance.

For the second consecutive year, the Chiba Jets Funabashi led the entire B. League first division in business revenue with ¥1.76 billion, which rose 23 percent from the 2017-18 season. The Jets were followed by the SeaHorses Mikawa (¥1.62 billion), Alvark Tokyo (¥1.38 billion) and Utsunomiya Brex (¥1.37 billion).

Five clubs (Chiba, Mikawa, Alvark, Utsunomiya Brex and Osaka Evessa) exceeded the ¥1.2 billion mark in the 2018-19 season, up by one from the previous year. None hit that mark in the inaugural 2016-17 season.

The Hiroshima Dragonflies led the second division in revenue with ¥475 million ($4.36 million).

The Brex topped ticketing revenue with ¥433 million, overtaking Chiba, which had led in the B. League’s first two seasons. The Jets were runners-up with ¥416 million, but led the league in total home attendance for the third straight year with 156,125.

B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa urged clubs to raise not only their attendance but also their commercial value going forward in order to capitalize on the spotlight Japanese basketball currently enjoys.

“There’s going to be higher expectations for basketball,” Okawa said during a news conference at the league’s office. “Then we can expect more sponsorships and ticketing revenue.”

The league also announced that the Fukushima Firebonds and six other clubs were in a state of insolvency last season.

The growth of the league and its clubs has also lead to improvements in player salaries. The average base salary of Japanese players was ¥16.1 million ($147,000) in the 2018-19 season, up by 22.9 percent from the 2016-17 campaign. Salaries of B. League players who competed at this year’s FIBA World Cup in China, excluding Nick Fazekas and Yudai Baba, averaged ¥45.4 million ($417,000).