The game of basketball has grown into a global phenomenon as evidenced by how many international players in the NBA today. The Los Angeles Lakers are no strangers to the foreign market as they consistently remain among the most popular teams abroad. Their popularity in Asia, specifically in Japan, has skyrocketed after the team traded for Rui Hachimura in a deal with the Washington Wizards.
Hachimura’s debut with the purple and gold was highly anticipated back in his native Japan, so much so that the streaming network NBA Rakuten crashed due to the number of people trying to tune into the game. After the win against the San Antonio Spurs, Hachimura confirmed that the Lakers are of high interest in Japan and believes they’re excited to see him playing for the team.
“I haven’t checked my phone yet. I don’t know, I have to check them out,” Hachimura said. “But like I said before, I think yesterday, the Lakers are like literally the most famous NBA team in Japan. So yeah, I think a lot of people have been watching here. Of course they be following me, so I think as a country we’re so happy about this move. I think I’m so happy to be here.”
It’s not too much of a surprise considering how much fans in Asia love the Lakers, and it must even more to see someone of Asian descent playing for L.A. Hachimura is actually the first Japanese player to suit for the Lakers, quite the accomplishment for a country that isn’t quite known for its basketball scene.
The exposure for the team is always appreciated, but the most important thing is how much Hachimura will be able to contribute on the Lakers, who look to get back into the postseason. He certainly fills a few needs on the roster as he’s got size and physicality in that frontcourt to go along with the ability to score on his own. Those two things alone made him a worthwhile target in a trade, so hopefully he’s able to build on his debut and get L.A. right back into the playoff mix.
Phil Handy says Rui Hachimura reminds him of Kawhi Leonard
When looking at Hachimura, he has all the physical tools to make it as a solid to great NBA player. His midrange scoring is his best skill so far, and working under Lakers assistant Phil Handy should help him get even better in that area. In fact, Handy’s initial impressions of Hachimura are already positive as he compared him to Kawhi Leonard.
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