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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] NBA Great Ray Allen Shares Love of the Game with Fans

On a visit to Tokyo during the NBA Finals, the Basketball Hall of Fame inductee interacted with fans and shared helpful pointers at a clinic in Shibuya.

It's not an everyday occurrence that a two-time NBA champion speaks to fans in Tokyo.

Which is why Ray Allen's promotional visit to the Japanese capital was a rare treat for basketball aficionados who got to hear his perspective on the sport ― and soak up his knowledge on improving as a player, too.

Allen appeared in exactly 1,300 NBA regular-season games in a successful career that spanned from 1996 to 2014. Along the way, he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, winning NBA Finals titles with the Celtics in 2008 and Heat in 2013.

An exact replica of the NBA Finals trophy, officially known as the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, accompanied Allen on his goodwill visit to Tokyo, which included a stop at the Japan men's national team's training camp on Friday, June 14.

NBA
Ray Allen (front, center) poses for a commemorative photo with the Japan national team at a training camp session on June 14 in Tokyo (©NBA)

Advice for Japan's National Team

During his visit to watch a Japan men's national team practice session on Friday, Allen issued a challenge to head coach Tom Hovasse's players as they prepare for tuneup games before the Paris Olympics.

In doing so, Allen offered some perspective from his own career. He suited up for the gold medal-winning United States squad at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  

"I am still proud of the fact that I have competed for my country," Allen told the players. "Past numbers and rankings don't matter. The greatest respect for your opponent is to fight to the best of your ability."

A motivational question followed.

"What does each of you have to do for the team?" he asked.

"I want you to have the desire to improve even by one percent, cherish each and every day, and continue to grow until the final match," the retired NBA icon said. "All you have to do now is to prove yourself on the court. I wish you the best of luck."

NBA
Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen is seen during his goodwill visit in Tokyo for the 2024 NBA Finals. (©NBA)

Allen Shares Insights on His NBA Career

On Saturday, June 15, Allen attended an NBA Finals viewing party in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, as the Dallas Mavericks thumped the visiting Celtics 122-84 in Game 4 to stave off elimination. Allen participated in an outdoor basketball clinic for students, ranging from elementary school age to age 18. And he also spoke with reporters after the clinic.

Allen, a 10-time NBA All-Star, who averaged 18.9 points per game in his career, shared some thoughts on the importance of practice.

"What I'm trying to focus on is keeping myself in good condition," the University of Connecticut legend said. "When I get tired, I tend to take shortcuts to make it less difficult.

"The way you use your body in basketball and in your personal life is completely different. It is important to keep yourself in good condition so that you can play basketball using muscles that you don't normally use without getting tired."

NBA
Ray Allen watches one of the student participants in a basketball clinic in Shibuya on June 15. (©NBA)

Take a Food Journey Around the World!

An NBA Icon Accentuates Positivity

In keeping with his reputation as an upbeat player throughout his NBA career, Allen reminded the clinic participants to encourage one another during games and practices.

That positive teamwork, he insisted, is a building block of success.

Allen provided a vivid example, pointing out that a simple congratulatory gesture is a good thing.

"Hey guys, do you know how important the high-five is?" Allen asked the enthusiastic players. "There is also data that shows that teams that do the high-five have a higher chance of winning.

"So if a kid on your team makes a good play, please give them a high-five. Let's also end today's meeting with a high-five."

The players gathered together around Allen.

What happened next?

A unified high-five, of course, with a chant that the onlookers and participants will easily remember decades from now.

"One, two, three, NBA!"

It was an appropriate, fun closing moment at the NBA clinic.

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Keisei Tominaga is Curry Brand's first international athlete. (CURRY BRAND)

Tominaga Joins Curry Brand as a Brand Ambassador

Aspiring NBA player Keisei Tominaga has finalized a multi-year endorsement deal with Curry Brand, in partnership with Under Armour.

Tominaga has become the first international athlete to sign a contract with Curry Brand, it was announced on Friday, June 14. Curry Brand is a global showcase for NBA superstar Stephen Curry's footwear and apparel.

Per terms of the contract, the former University of Nebraska standout is committed to wearing Curry Brand sneakers and clothing on the court. He's also set to perform brand ambassador duties. A news release also stated that Tominaga will be involved in "community impact initiatives."

Tominaga said he's excited about this opportunity.

"It is an incredible honor to join Curry Brand and be among its elite roster of athletes," Tominaga said in a statement. "Steph has always been one of my basketball heroes and I have worked hard to emulate his game in my own basketball career, so to be able to represent his brand and everything he stands for is a dream come true."

Keisei Tominaga (CURRY BRAND)

Tominaga is affectionately known as the "Japanese Steph Curry," a nod to his skills as a sharpshooter.

"We are excited to have Keisei join the Curry Brand family as we continue to extend our mission internationally," company president Stephen Curry said. "He has a dedication to the game and continues to be an inspiration for athletes across the globe. I love that we are growing this amazing roster of Curry Brand athletes, and Keisei along with our other athletes are continuing to create an impact and changing the game of basketball."

In the run-up to the NBA Draft on June 26, Tominaga has participated in workouts for the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings in recent weeks.

Tominaga is expected to play for Japan in the upcoming Paris Olympics. 

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Head coach Kota Mizuno guided the Gunma Crane Thunders from 2022-24. (B.LEAGUE)

Coach Mizuno Leaves the Crane Thunders

After two seasons at the helm, Guna Crane Thunders coach Kota Mizuno's contract has expired, and the B.League team is not renewing the deal. Gunma made an announcement on Friday, June 14.

The Crane Thunders had a 29-31 record in 2022-23, followed by a 31-29 record in 2023-24. They missed the playoffs both seasons.

Mizuno, who served as the Alvark Tokyo's top assistant coach from 2018-22 before joining Gunma, said he was frustrated that the Crane Thunders didn't advance to the playoffs in either season.

"I am grateful to the front office for entrusting me with the head coach position for two seasons, a period of growth for the club," he added in a statement. "Most of all, I would like to thank all the players and staff who helped and supported me. Thank you very much.

"The time we spent fighting for the same goal will always be an important asset for me."

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Former Shiga Lakes guard Kiefer Ravena in a February 2023 file photo. (B.LEAGUE)

Filipino Standout Kiefer Ravena Joins B-Corsairs

Veteran guard Kiefer Ravena, who spent the past three seasons with the Shiga Lakes (formerly known as the Lakestars), will play for the rebuilding Yokohama B-Corsairs in the 2024-25 season, it was announced on Friday.

"I'm very much excited to play for the Yokohama B-Corsairs said in a team-issued news release. "This will be a new chapter in my career and I hope I'm able to bring my experience and competitiveness to the team. I'm excited to meet and play for the boosters and make a run for the championship."

His younger brother Thirdy Ravena, who suited up for the San-en Neo Phoenix from 2020-24, is currently a free agent.

Kiefer Ravena averaged 12.4 points and 5.5 assists in 59 games for the Lakes in 2023-24, helping the team earn promotion from the B.League second division to B1.

Kana Nakashio celebrates her victory in the World Surf League's Nias Pro Junior women's competition on June 14 at Lagundri Bay in Nias, Indonesia. (Tim Hain/WSL)

Surfing

Nakashio Wins World Surf League Pro Junior Event in Indonesia

Kana Nakashio, 20, triumphed in the World Surf League's Nias Pro Junior women's competition on Friday, June 14 at Lagundri Bay in Nias, Indonesia.

Nakashio outpointed Japanese compatriot Sumomo Sato in the final, posting a total of 13.27 points in their head-to-head duel. Sato finished with 11.07. Also for Japan, Mirai Ikeda had 9.76 points in the four-woman final and Cocona Kawase received 8.47 points.

Kana Nakashio competes in the women's final at the World Surf League's Nias Pro Junior tour stop on June 14 at Lagundri Bay in Nias, Indonesia. (Tim Hain/WSL)

"I'm so happy to get this win," Nakashio said, according to the World Surf League website, before adding, "I knew there were lulls in the swell so I had to wait and only take the best waves, so I waited for my opportunity.

"On my first wave, I got a good score, so I felt like I was in tune with the wave. I just had to wait for the next chance. Finally, just at the end of the final, I got my opportunity, and I got the score to win it."

With the victory in the tournament that ran from June 8-14, Nakashio solidified her spot atop the WSL Asia Regional Pro Junior rankings.

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Tennis

Nishikori, Osaka Eligible to Play in Paris Games

According to the International Tennis Federation's official protocol, a national Olympic committee can designate up to four players to participate in the men's and women's singles draws if they are ranked 56th or higher as of June 10.

But there are exceptions to the rule. Players who are ranked lower and have given birth to a child or been injured can be exempt from the rule noted above.

On Thursday, June 13, the Japan Tennis Association announced that Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka have received clearance to participate for Japan's men's and women's squads in the Paris Olympics.

Nishikori, who has participated in the past four Olympic Games, is currently 286th in the men's rankings. Osaka, who made her Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, is 125th in the women's rankings.

Yoshito Yahagi in a November 2021 file photo.

Horse Racing

A Heated Competition for the Most Wins Among Trainers

In the ongoing 2024 Japan Racing Association season, 10 trainers have amassed 20 or more victories, as of Friday, June 14.

So who are the leading trainers this season?

Topping the chart are Yoshito Yahagi and Yasuo Tomomichi with 26 wins in 218 and 132 races, respectively.

Noriyuki Hori is third with 25 wins out of 113 starts, followed by Mitsumasa Nakauchida (23 victories in 108 attempts).

Hiroyuki Uemura, Hideaki Fujiwara and Kenji Nonaka have 22 wins apiece. The others: Masato Nishizono (21) and Naosuke Sugai and Mikio Matsunaga (20 apiece).

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Samurai Blue
Japan's Hiroki Ito scores a goal in the 22nd minute against Peru in an international friendly on June 20, 2023, at Panasonic Stadium Suita in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. (ⒸSANKEI)

Soccer

Defender Ito Signs a Four-Year Deal with Bayern Munich

Hiroki Ito has joined German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, agreeing to a four-year contract. The team made the announcement on Friday, June 14.

Ito is quite familiar with the competition in Germany's top-flight soccer league. He played for VfB Stuttgart from 2021-24.

"Hiroki Ito was reliability personified at VfB Stuttgart," Bayern sporting director Christoph Freund said in a statement. "He produced consistent performances at a top level, which attracted the attention of several big clubs.

"Hiroki is tall, aggressive, has a strong left foot, an excellent passing game and is versatile in defense because he can play on both the left side as well as centrally. He came to Germany as a young player, has made great progress and we're sure that there's still further potential in him."

In other soccer news, the Japan men's national team trounced Syria 5-0 in a 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian Group B second-round qualifier on Tuesday in Hiroshima. Ayase Ueda (13th minute), Ritsu Doan (19th), Yuki Soma and Takumi Minamino scored goals for the Samurai Blue, who also benefited from an own goal in the 21st minute to take a 3-0 lead.

Japan went 6-0 in the second round of qualifiers.

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Briefly…

The Hiroshima Dragonflies finished third overall in the Basketball Champions League Asia tournament in Dubai. Coach Kyle Milling's team, which won the B.League title on May 28, defeated Iranian opponent Shahrdary Gorgan 81-76 in the third-place game on Saturday, June 15. Four players scored in double figures for the Dragonflies: Ryo Yamazaki (18 points), Kerry Blackshear Jr (17), Dwayne Evans (16) and Takuto Nakamura (14).

Quote of the Week

"As you know, we're at a bit of a turning point for Japanese rugby. There's a lot of responsibility in developing the next generation of players for Japan and certainly I'm enjoying the task of doing it."

Japan men's national team head coach Eddie Jones on the Brave Blossoms' development during a training camp in Miyazaki on June 10, Kyodo News reported.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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