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Rui Hachimura's fame in Japan is producing big benefits for Wizards, other members of team

Rui Hachimura's fame in Japan is producing big benefits for Wizards, other members of team

WASHINGTON -- Rui Hachimura is a big deal in his home country of Japan and the Washington Wizards are beginning to see the early returns from a business perspective.

Their corporate office took notice within 24 hours of him being drafted in June when Japanese companies started reaching out and when over 40 members of Japanese media showed up for his introductory press conference. Then, they saw the social media engagement, how highlights of his first game set a company record for video views.

That led to the creation of a Japanese wing of their digital media department, a new Twitter account catered towards Japanese fans and a sponshorship with the company NEC. Now, they have two top executives at Monumental Sports, Raul Fernandez and Jim Van Stone, flying to Japan for the second time in six weeks to negotiate more sponsorship deals.

Fernandez and Van Stone have over 20 meetings lined up over the course of a week in Tokyo.

"I think the opportunity for us to go over there and introduce our brand, the Washington Wizards, to Japan is very humbling. Rui has been a phenomenal addition," Van Stone said.

"When you look at worldwide distribution of the NBA, it just continues to grow and blossom. I think Japan is really that next big market and opportunity for us. I think Rui is going to help to really establish that."

Fernandez said the first trip to Japan was an eye-opening experience. They had seen the social media engagement numbers from content involving Hachimura, but it was different to actually go there.

"It was terrific to actually see firsthand in Tokyo the excitement, the energy and the passion and the following for Rui. Clearly, fans in Japan have been following his career in college, but as he's made this transition to the pros, as we look forward to the countdown to the Olympics, there's just an extra level," Fernandez said.

Though the Wizards have international clients, most of them are domestic. Their executives take annual trips to meet with companies in London, UK and the United Arab Emirates.

Japan, though, is a new venture for them and the league and it has the Wizards wondering how far it can go, and whether it can reach the level of other star athletes in their home countries.

"If you think about hockey and Washington, D.C. and how the Capitals came here and began to grow, really the explosion was with a star. It was Ovechkin," Fernandez said. "When people can identify, follow that journey and be part of a journey, that's when I think it becomes viral. That's what we've got with Rui Hachimura here."

Van Stone said he would like the Wizards to become the "team of Japan," not unlike the Houston Rockets and their rise in China due to Yao Ming. Ming was a sensation over a decade ago and as he rose, so did the brand of the Rockets and for individuals on the team. Some of his teammates got shoe and other endorsement deals in China because of the exposure Ming brought.

According to Fernandez and Van Stone, the one member of the Wizards besides Hachimura who has started to catch on in Japan is head coach Scott Brooks. That may be surprising, but it's something the Wizards have noticed.

"Konichiwa," Brooks said when informed. "So, when I go to the 2020 Olympics, I won't have to buy a meal?"

"Basketball in Japan, it's getting bigger right now," Hachimura said. "[Brooks] is always on the TV."

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NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

While we wait for the 2019-20 NBA season to return from suspension, the league may have found another way to entertain us. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring several high-profile players, though they are unnamed as of now. 

In this case, players would shoot by themselves, presumably at their homes, and go shot-for-shot with other players remotely. The great thing about H-O-R-S-E is all you need to be able to do is shoot, leaving the door open for former players like Paul Pierce to get in on the fun. 

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen NBA players playing H-O-R-S-E on television. Back in 2010, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played each other in H-O-R-S-E as a part of All-Star weekend. As you'd expect, Durant won. 

This follows the NBA kickstarting the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Friday, where 16 NBA stars play each other in an NBA 2K20 tournament for charity. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura headline the event that is expected to run until April 11. 

According to Woj, the details on the H-O-R-S-E competition are still being finalized with the league and ESPN, who'd ultimately air the event. 

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Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said -- as if there was going to be any doubt -- that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant's death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.

“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him."

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.

Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He also was part of Boston's 2008 NBA title.

“This is the culmination," Garnett said. “All those hours ... this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer' is everything."

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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