B. League

Japan Basketball Association to host marquee event in Yoyogi

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff writer

The Japan Basketball Association announced on Thursday that it would host a large-scale event featuring intra-squad exhibition games between teams formed with international-caliber players from Japan's top male and female leagues at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Aug. 16.

The event, which will be held without spectators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will also showcase the Japan national 3×3 and wheelchair basketball teams.

Speaking at a joint news conference of the JBA and B. League at a Tokyo hotel, JBA president Yuko Mitsuya said that the two entities decided to host the event in order to accomplish their goals of giving energy to the country through basketball.

"We've seen more people infected with the coronavirus day in and day out and heard this is the second wave," Mitsuya said. "And we could have stayed silent given the circumstances, but we've brainstormed what we could potentially do through basketball. We asked ourselves if doing nothing is the right thing to do."

Mitsuya, a women's volleyball bronze medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said that organizers would carry out the event in order to ensure the complete safety of the players. She added that organizers would impose "about three PCR tests" on participating athletes, who would assemble one day prior to the event.

Julio Lamas and Tom Hovasse, the head coaches of the men's and women's national teams, respectively, will be the sideline supervisors for their five-man game squads.

Their teams may even take to the court in the same game. Mitsuya said that because the players are not yet physically prepared ahead of the 2020-21 season, the squads are unlikely to compete for all four quarters. She suggested that the men's and women's teams might play in turn — with the male teams playing in the first and third quarters while the ladies take over floor in the second and fourth.

The event will be streamed live on SoftBank's Basket Live service, which airs all the B. League division one and two games during the season.

Both the JBA and B. League will receive more technological support from SoftBank, a major sponsor of Japanese basketball, in order to cope with the prolonged effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The B. League, which is scheduled to enter its fifth season in October, plans to enrich the quality and content of its game broadcasts on Basket Live by taking advantage of SoftBank's computer graphic technologies in order to show player stats and information on the screen.

"We hope to show the casual fans or even those who have never watched a basketball game that we have different, attractive players in our league, and not just reach out to the core fans," B. League chairman Shinji Shimada said.

Shimada added that B2 games will be broadcast with two television cameras in the upcoming season, up from one until last year.

Jun Shimba, SoftBank representative director and COO, said that the information technology company would be ready to eventually provide some of its technologies such as 5G and virtual reality so that fans who can’t attend games in person will still be able to enjoy the action while at home.

Shimba also discussed the AI thermometer and saliva-based PCR test that his company had developed for the league. The circuit announced all the B1 and B2 clubs would use the thermometers provided by SoftBank to inspect people entering the arena.

A league official said the saliva-based test, which is cheaper than the conventional swab test, could be in place for use during the 2020-21 season.

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