B.LEAGUE sees Asian Quota as major step towards raising Asia basketball to another level
TOKYO (Japan) - The Japanese B.LEAGUE has currently progressed to the final stage in which the Utsunomiya Brex will face the Chiba Jets. The three-game Finals series will start on Saturday May 29 to determine the champion of yet another B.LEAGUE season.
"Although some games were cancelled, our goal was to complete the season, and I am glad that we were able to proceed with the season until the finals," said B. League Chairman, Shinji Shimada. "Thanks to the cooperation of the clubs, the players, the people involved, and the fans, we were able to run the games without any infection spreading from the spectators. I would like to express my gratitude."
That success on the court has translated to success off the court as well, in terms of the heightening popularity of basketball in Japan among fans.
Shimada took over the reigns as B.League Chairman in July 2020
"I believe that the 'league' on a daily basis is a major engine for fans to establish themselves as basketball fans," said JBA President and FIBA Central Board member, Ms. Yuko Mitsuya. "By having clubs across the country collaborate with their local prefectural associations, we have been able to develop and deepen the basketball fan base across the country, as well as to increase the number of competitors by holding clinics, schools, etc. This has had a variety of effects. In the future, JBA and B.LEAGUE will continue to work together as one in the basketball family to enhance the value of basketball."
Considering the situation and limitations that every country is facing worldwide, there were also obstacles and hurdles to overcome towards reaching this final stretch.
"The rules set by the local authorities are different in each region, and adapting to them and to the daily changes required speedy decision-making. It was very difficult to operate flexibly and speedily," said Shimada.
Nonetheless, there was much excitement in the air throughout the entire season, leading to comparisons with other professional leagues in Asia such as the CBA and the PBA and how fun it would be to see the league powerhouses go up against each other.
"We haven't played against them directly, but since B.LEAGUE started, the environment surrounding the players has improved and the international competitiveness has increased a lot," Shimada also added.
JBA president and FIBA Central Board member Yuko Mitsuya
One component that has factored in that improved environment has been the implementation of the "Asian Quota" rule in player registration this season, allowing stars from a select group of Asian countries to play in the B.LEAGUE without taking up the usual Foreign player quota. The players who were recruited with this quota in this season includes Thirdy Ravena of San-en NeoPhoenix (Philippines), Jae Min-Yang of Shinshu Brave Warriors (Korea), and Jin Liu of Nishinomiya Storks (China).
Aside from raising the level of competition in the league, the Asian Quota players also brought along a new group of fans who constantly followed the B.LEAGUE to cheer for their heroes.
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"The number of followers on the B.LEGUE social media channels and the number of video views on Youtube increased dramatically after Thirdy Ravena joined one of the B.LEAGUE clubs. And the club was also able to acquire a large sponsor," Shimada said before adding that there's still room to grow with this idea.
"On the other hand, the number of the Asian quota players is currently limited to four players from three countries, and I feel that there are still issues in recruiting."
Nonetheless, the relative success of the implementation of this rule is a step forward to raising the level of play, not just in Japan, but in the entire Asian region.
"Asia has one of the largest populations in the world, and in order for basketball to further develop in the world in the future, Asia will take center stage. Although Asia's international competitiveness is still low, I would like to make Asia a region on par with the U.S. and Europe by using the Asian quota and stimulating each other to increase competitiveness and marketing power," said Shimada.
Mitsuya also added onto the topic, "I think that Asia has a very important role to play in order for basketball to become more valuable in the world. The Asian Quota is the first step. I feel that we need to work more closely together to raise the level of competition in Asia and promote our sport."