With Yuta Watanabe seemingly secure on the Nets roster, expect Brooklyn to be an even bigger hit in Japan than in the past… and they were already No. 2 in jersey sales behind Watanabe’s Raptors last year, with Watanabe clearly No. 1 among all NBA players, ahead of Steph Curry.
Yuta Watanabe is expected to increase Nets’ popularity in Japan
Watanabe is one of the Nets‘ two Japanese-born players. Cam Thomas was born in Yokosuka, Japan, in a US military hospital where his mother was stationed at the time.
However, Thomas went back to the United States, especially the tidewater region of Virginia. Watanabe is one of Japan’s most popular athletes, having played on the national team and regularly interacting with his countrymen in Japanese on social media, where he has hundreds of thousands of followers.
Japanese media was large in number on Media Day and Day 1 of camp. At the HSS Training Center, about 15 journalists from TV and print representing some of Japan’s biggest media brands were present. In comparison, Australia had three Australian-born players on the HSS courts but only one journalist.
The timing is ideal for the Nets and Watanabe. His appearance in the NBA’s largest media market coincides with the league’s efforts to expand its presence in Japan.
Among Asia’s major economies, the NBA has the greatest impact in the Philippines. As Joel Rush of Forbes Sports noted out, the archipelago’s numbers are by far the best not only in Asia, but anywhere outside the United States.
A full 63% of people in the Philippines are interested in the NBA, by f ar the highest percentage of any country outside of the United States, and more than double the 30% interest in Canada, which has had one or more teams in the league since 1995,” Rush wrote. China has the second-highest level of interest, at 38%.”
However, despite its massive economy, Japan is barely visible on the NBA landscape. According to Rush, only 6% of people consider professional basketball to be their favorite sport.
The NBA intends to maintain its dominance in China and the Philippines while increasing awareness – and revenue – in Japan.
The NBA aims to keep its lead in China and the Philippines while raising awareness and revenue in Japan.
“The goal of these games is to deepen our connection with Japanese fans,” NBA Asia Managing Director Ramez Sheikh said at the time, according to Boardroom’s Anthony Puccio.
“Not only do international games allow us to bring NBA excitement to fans who may never have had the opportunity to attend an NBA game, but partners, media, and celebrities look forward to these games.”
Sheikh also told Pooch that if things are to continue improving, homegrown players like Watanabe and Hachimura must generate more interest. NBA Japan tweeted a video of Watanabe on Sunday night…
— NBA Japan (@NBAJPN) October 17, 2022
What role will Watanabe play for the Nets? He continued to play well in the preseason, displaying his typical strong defense as well as an improved 3-point shot, going 5-of-10. In 15 minutes per game, he averaged 5.8 points.
Steve Nash thinks the 6’9″ forward can play with “any group” of players and praised his feel for the game, telling reporters on Sunday. When the Nets signed Watanabe, a team insider said it should be “celebrated.”
Watanabe notified Japanese reporters on Media Day that he believes he can contribute. “I don’t think it’s going to be that easy again this year, but I think if I do my job well, I’ll be able to get good results. It’s tough, but I hope I can enjoy it and get on with it.”
If he does, he will not only contribute to the Nets’ victory. It could make them an even bigger part of Japan’s team.