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Steph Curry and the Warriors flash massive global appeal in Japan

By Madeline Kenney

TOKYO — They were hardly a name outside the Bay Area, let alone a global brand, when they drafted Stephen Curry in 2009.

Now, powered by Curry’s revolutionary play and four NBA championships, the Golden State Warriors are about as big as it gets, right up there with the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys.

The Warriors’ worldwide allure was on display all last week in Japan, where they spent five days and played two weekend exhibition games. The team returned home Sunday, but left a distinct impression.

“It’s amazing to know where we started in my career back in ‘09 to now, the global reach the NBA has had… [we’ve] felt that love, that support in Tokyo,” Curry said before the team left Japan. “I know it’s continuing to grow. The culture around basketball here is growing at a rapid rate, so I’m glad a lot of fans appreciate how we play. That’s pouring some gas in that tank for sure.”

The Warriors/ partner on this junket, the Washington Wizards, also brought a huge attraction to Japan. Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is the only Japanese native to be picked in the first round of the NBA Draft. Hachimura, born in Toyama, about 250 miles from Tokyo – or 2 hours on the Shinkansen bullet train – was drafted ninth overall in 2019 after three years at Gonzaga.

Still, there was great adoration for Curry here. He was showered with love from fans — many wearing his No. 30 jersey — from the moment he walked out of customs at Tokyo International Airport on Wednesday. He received as loud of an ovation as Hachimura in the preseason opener Friday and was cheered wildly with every swish of the net during a 3-point shooting contest on Saturday.

Curry’s mere presence brought a young boy to tears Saturday afternoon during the Warriors’ ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new basketball court they helped refurbish at a community center outside Tokyo.

The trip was as much about business as basketball. Team president Brandon Schneider said the Warriors’ lucrative corporate partnership with Rakuten, a major Japanese e-commerce and online retailer, was a “huge part of why” they traveled 20 hours (round trip) and interrupted normal preseason preparations.

Rakuten CEO Amit Patel said his company’s brand awareness has grown exponentially from almost nothing since it signed a reported $60 million deal in 2017 to be the Warriors’ jersey-badge sponsor, Warriors exec Mike Kitts said the partnership with Rakuten has been a big win for the team, too.

“They’ve helped us in Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand… it goes beyond just Japan,” said Kitts, executive vice president of partnerships.

In fact, the partnership has been so successful that the Warriors and Rakuten signed a multi-year extension in May. (The terms have not yet been made public.)

There’s nothing fans love more than winning. And there’s been no team better at that in the last decade than the Warriors.

The Warriors’ global popularity has skyrocketed with their dominance — four championships and six NBA Finals appearances — over the last eight years. The Warriors lead the league in combined social media following and have nearly 26 million Instagram followers — 5.5 million more than the Lakers, who have the second-biggest following among NBA teams.

Source: Paradise Post