Japanese basketball legend Takehiko Orimo of the Levanga Hokkaido was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award on Friday, headlining the first day of the 2019-20 B. League Award Show.
For the past three years, the annual season-ending ceremony has been a lavish one-day event held in a theatre or in an outside space and with fans also invited. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the league decided to host the event online over three days this year. It is being streamed live on the B. League’s YouTube channel.
The league had one-third of the regular season remaining when it canceled 2019-20 campaign on March 27 in response to the pandemic. While that meant there would be no league champion this year, the pro circuit decided to go ahead with its awards ceremony.
Orimo, who officially announced his retirement after 27 seasons on Sunday, became the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in the four-year history of the league.
“I have received such an honorable award,” said the 49-year-old, who played for the Toyota Motors Alvark before moving to Hokkaido in 2007-08. “I played for 27 years, which is such a long time. But I feel like it’s paid off with this award.”
The Kawasaki Brave Thunders, meanwhile, captured “the Best Hospitality Club Award” and “the Best Social Media Club” accolades for the first time.
Kawasaki has been one of the most rapidly growing clubs in the league thanks to its efforts to increase its fan base and enhance the fan experience in the two years since DeNA Corporation took over ownership from Toshiba Corporation.
The Brave Thunders, who finished first in the Central Conference in the shortened 2019-20 season, averaged a home attendance of 4,732. The figure represents an increase of over 1,000 from the previous season and was second to the Chiba Jets Funabashi (5,116).
Kawasaki’s increasing popularity was also seen in its social media following. According to the league, the team attracted 18,950 new followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter between July 1, 2019, and April 15 of this year. The club has over 82,309 followers overall.
Elsewhere, Takaki Kato has earned the best referee award for the fourth straight year.