Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe Become the First Japanese NBA Players to Play Against Each Other


Yuta Watanabe of the Memphis Grizzlies and Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards made history as the first pair of Japanese players to share an NBA court.

The 25-year-old Grizzlies small forward/shooting guard and the 21-year-old Wizards power forward, who are both members of the Japanese national team, met at a game in Memphis’ FedExForum on Saturday, according to Commercial Appeal.

Memphis won the game with a score of 128-111.


Their meeting marks the very first time in NBA history where two Japanese players played against each other in a regular season game.

Hachimura entered the court with only 7 minutes and 42 seconds left on the clock while Watanabe was already on the court playing the game, the Japanese Times reported.

“It felt extremely weird,” Watanabe said. “I never imagined playing against a Japanese opponent. He’ll probably continue to get more minutes as a starter. For me, my time on court is contingent on how much better I can get.”

Even though the two players only played against each other for a little over a minute, they still had a face-off in which Hachimura made a shot while Watanabe contested. After the game, the two athletes reportedly swapped jerseys.

“It was only a little time, but I think it’s great to make such big history,” Hachimura said. “I think we’ll be playing against each other a lot in the future, so even though it was short it was good to experience.”

Watanabe is already in his second and final year of a two-way contract with the Grizzlies. This means the basketball player goes back and forth playing for the Memphis Grizzlies and its G League affiliate, Memphis Hustle.

Feature Image via @yutawatanabe12 (Left), @rui_8mura (Right)

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