Growing up in Japan, Wizards first-round pick Rui Hachimura's early childhood took place around the same time that Michael Jordan was finishing up his playing career in the nation's capital. Though Hachimura could only watch "His Airness" through highlight videos on YouTube, he quickly took notice in Jordan's basketball skills and sneaker style.
"He’s really nice, he’s like art," Hachimura said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller.
Fast forward to 2019 and Hachimura is now a member of the Washington Wizards. He'll also now get to don the brand he admired growing up, as he recently signed a deal with Jordan Brand.
“It’s been an honor, it’s a real honor. Actually, I didn’t even imagine I’m going to be part of this Jordan Brand family," Hachimura said. "All the basketball players, athletes already top players. I can be a part of it. I’m so happy about it.”
His joy is sparked by a few different aspects of what Jordan Brand means to him. Spending a majority of his life in a country where the NBA is just now growing, Hachimura's exposure to NBA stars was limited at times. Even with that, the name Michael Jordan still made its way to Japan.
Jordan's fame came largely with his basketball skill, but his popularity in Japan was also due in part to the inspiration he spread into the minds of those hoping to someday achieve what he did.
“People know about basketball, but also like a great person," Hachimura said about Jordan. "He helped a lot of things, inspired a lot of kids. People know, kids and different generations, a lot of people know about him.”
Additionally, Hachimura's affection for Jordan Brand also lies within the style of the sneakers, because it's basically all he's ever worn. An avid sneakerhead, his dedication to rocking Jordan Brand shoes began long before he signed a contract.
“I’ve been wearing those shoes since kids. I only wear Jordans," Hachimura said. "Outside, not basketball on the court, off the court always wear Jordans and stuff. So I have a lot of shoes.”
The Retro 4's hold a strong place in his heart, but Hachimura also has love for the Concord 11's and Russell Westbrooks "Why Not?" custom design.
In general, the Thunder point guard is someone Hachimura has a great amount of respect for. Westbrook and fellow Jordan Brand athlete Carmelo Anthony are the two players he's most excited about now being alongside, both for their play and their sometimes larger than life outfits.
“They’re like really unique guys. I really like fashion and stuff. I really like those people’s fashion, but also who they are," Hachimura said. "They’re really great persons.”
While his love for Jordan Brand came from the players he's watched growing up, Hachimura now has a chance to make his own mark on the brand. It's clear that he'll have no problem with the fashion side of things, but the rookie is also hoping that this will be an opportunity to help continue to grow the game and the brand where he grew up.
“I think I want to do more on the Japanese side," There are a lot of people who know the Jordans and stuff, Nike is big there too, but there are also other brands like Mizuno, like a Japanese brand. I want to get more exposure for Jordan Brand, as the first Japanese athlete.”
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