男子日本代表

男子日本代表

2022/07/19

Yuta Watanabe reps Pan Asian basketball - An Indonesian fan shares the impact of Japanese basketball star

On-going FIBA Asia Cup 2022 provides basketball fans and media members in Asia-Oceania zone with the opportunity to watch Yuta Watanabe play for the first time since the Toronto Raptors closed their 2021-22 campaign in early May. As expected, Watanabe is currently helping the "Akatsuki Japan (It basically means the rising sun in the very early morning)" national team rising to the knockout stage as its leading scorer, leading rebounder and leading shot blocker with 15.3 points, 8.0 boards and 1.3 rejections through the first three contests in the group round. The impact has been felt. Not just by Japanese fans but people in other Asian countries.

 

Yuta Watanabe driving down the lane against Iran on July 17, 2022(©FIBA.AsiaCup2022)


"When you talk about them (Asian young basketball players), then Yuta will also be mentioned as an example."


Vita (@vitaae), a young basketball fan who lives and works in Jakarta where the Cup is taking place, is one of those fans. And she hit the fortune one day during the group round. While she was chilling with her friend outside near the venue for the tournament, she saw an extremely tall man walking up toward where she was standing.


He looked like Yuta Watanabe the basketball star whom Vita has been rooting for ever since his pre-NBA days. On that particular day, Vita was bold enough to scream "Yuta!" and let him know she was there.


As someone who played hoops for her middle school and high school, Vita keeps her passion for the game until this day. She says she still casually plays basketball every once in a while and follows the NBA/NCAA on the daily basis.


For Vita, Watanabe is one of the important Asian representatives who inspires young Asian people. She roots for Watanabe as an Asian basketball fan and hopes "He can maintain a good performance so he can open the door for younger players." She believes Watanabe's success will push them to dream big and challenge for the highest stage of basketball. "So when you talk about them, then Yuta will also be mentioned as an example."

 


"He (Watanabe) is so kind and humble, I can't stop saying over and over again."


The man replied with a "Hi!" and waved his hands to Vita. Then she knew she was about to make once-in-a-life-time opportunity with her dreamy celebrity. "I think he's going for dinner at the near Japanese restaurant and I ask for a picture after he comes back."


"I said "ganbatte! (Japanese expression for like "keep it going!")" to him and he said something to me other than thank you. But I can't hear it well because both of us were wearing the mask." Maybe that was "Later after the dinner."


Although she didn't really expect Watanabe would come back for her humble request, she just decided to stay there for the moment with her friend anyway. Then not long after that, Watanabe came back.


"I didn't expect he would be so nice like that because he's already an NBA player and many people know him. He is so kind and humble, I can't stop saying over and over again."


Then they took a selfie or two together, so did Vita's friend. "I feel so happy like it's once in a lifetime moment that didn't come to my life again if I missed this opportunity."

 

https://twitter.com/vitaae/status/1548531547996766209?t=TecuNc9_dwwV07khJmTL2A&s=19


Watanabe inspires Asian youth hopefuls


This whole story from Indonesia, not from Japan, Canada nor the USA, tells how diverse the game of basketball has become. It also tells how huge the potential of one international player can be and how influential it can be throughout a broad range of territories in the world.


According to Vita, basketball is one sports that is on the rise in Indonesia. Their national team just won the gold medal in The Sea Games 2022 (South-East Asian Games) for the first time and made a history to break the consecutive wins of the Philippines who already had won 13 titles in the past years. "So, many people have higher expectations of the Indonesia team and also next year we're hosting the World Cup."


Vita says badminton is the king of sports in her country. So here comes the confusion. The word "Yuta Watanabe" means the badminton hero there more than the basketball hero. We, in Japan, have two elite athletes in basketball and badminton who has exactly the same name, competing at the Olympic level. "Yes, Yuta Watanabe the badminton player is more popular in Indonesia because Badminton is the most popular sport here. If you search Yuta Watanabe in Indonesia, mostly the top result is Yuta Watanabe the badminton player because many fans in Indonesia also talking about him. Yuta Watanabe the basketball player is only known by NBA fans." FIBA and NBA both have some more works to do in Asia.


Indonesian federation doesn't hold the automatic bid to compete in the World Cup despite of the fact that the country is hosting a part of its group round. FIBA asked the federation to improve the domestic competition level and required to push its national team into the elite eight status in the Asia Cup to be able to play in the World Cup.


Unfortunately, Indonesian national team just missed the elite eight in Asia Cup this Monday by losing to China in the round of sixteen. But it seems like basketball in this local area has been starting a new life as it already had won enthusiastic engagement from fans like Vita. As Vita says, through the example of Watanabe, now a lot of Asian young talents are aware that they can succeed at the highest level anywhere in the world.


She says she will keep rooting for Watanabe. "Hopefully NBA champion soon!"


If that happens, entire country of Japan will get crazy. But Vita knows it's going to encourage a lot of young people in Indonesia as well.


"I Hope Yuta does not get any serious injury and stays healthy so he can give the best performance in every game. All the best for him and his career, everywhere he goes. Thank you for being kind and humble, I'm so happy to meet you in person."


Text by Takeshi Shibata
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