North American basketball’s NBA has announced it will return to Japan for two pre-season games later this year.
Both games will be contested by the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards as part of the NBA Japan Games 2022.
The Saitama Super Arena will play host to the two fixtures, on September 30 and October 2.
For the Warriors and Wizards, this will mark their first visits to Japan, and the 15th and 16th NBA games ever in the country.
The NBA last staged games in Japan in 2019 when the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors contested two pre-season matches.
The NBA Japan Games 2022 will also be the NBA’s first in an international territory since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is likely to be strong local interest in the game with Japanese star Rui Hachimura representing the Wizards.
Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant, is the presenting sponsor of the NBA Japan Games 2022 as part of its global marketing partnership with the league.
The company partnered with the NBA in 2017 and is also the league’s exclusive live-game distribution partner in Japan.
Rakuten is notably the jersey sponsor of the Warriors and renewed its deal with the franchise last November having initially teamed up in the 2017-18 season.
The Warriors-Wizards pre-season games will be live-streamed in Japan on the NBA Rakuten service and will be available in more than 200 countries and territories on television, digital media, and social media.
The Japan Games will mark the Warriors’ ninth and 10th games played outside of North America, with Japan becoming the sixth country outside of the US to host the team (Canada, China, France, Japan, Mexico, Spain).
The six-time NBA champions last participated in the NBA Global Games in China in 2017 with a pair of pre-season games in Shenzhen and Shanghai.
Between 1990 and 2003, the NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan in Saitama City, Tokyo, and Yokohama.
The Wizards have played multiple pre-season games overseas including in Mexico in 2000, Germany and Spain in 2008, and Brazil in 2013. In 2019, the franchise also played a regular-season game in London, UK.