Japan's B. League Tips off


Japan's B. League Tips off

by: Shoji Kudaka | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: September 27, 2016

The outcome, in the end, wasn’t what they’d hoped for. A loss at the hands of George Washington University meant the Ryukyu Golden Kings had lost a game in front of their fans, on their home court.

But for the fans of the Golden Kings, the preseason loss was an opportunity to get a glimpse of their local professional basketball team – a team that will compete for the first time in the newly formed B. League this season.

Located just 5 minutes from gate 2 of Kadena Air Base, the Okinawa City Gymnasium was filled, as the Golden Kings prepped for their season opener with Alvark Tokyo in Tokyo. The Kings, who won the bj League last season, will kick off their regular season home slate with a 7 p.m. tip Sat. Oct. 1 with the Shiga Lakestars.

By the time the doors opened at 1:30 p.m., there was a long line to get in the gym.  It is a common scene for the popular Kings, but what was special about the day was that it was the Colonials.

“A college team versus a professional team is very interesting,” said Lt. Bruce Simmons, who brought his family to the game. “This was our first game. I have been here for quite some time now, so I say ‘Hey, it’s time to come out and see the Kings play.’”

Led by Tyler Cavanaugh, a 6-foot-9 forward who previously played for Wake Forest, and Yuta Watanabe, a 6-foot-8 up-and-coming Japanese guard, the hoopers from the states dominated the inside, and led 39-27 at halftime.

Despite it being an exhibition game, it was clear that both teams were taking this contest very seriously.
Prior to their meeting, the Colonials had beaten Japan’s national team three times in a row. A win over the Golden Kings meant leaving Japan with a 4-0 record. For the Golden Kings, they didn’t want to lose in front of the home crowd.

“I think it’s a good game. It’s good that George Washington came over from the states to play. I see the difference in skills. I’ll definitely come back for another Kings game,” said Jordan Brand from Kadena.

The new professional basketball league is set to start with a season opener between the Golden Kings and Tokyo Alvark. The two squads represent last season’s champions of the former Japan Basketball League (Tokyo) and bj League (Ryuku). The two leagues combined to form the B. League, and the inaugural game took place Sept. 22 at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo.

The league consists of two 18-team divisions, each with three 6-team conferences (East, West, Central). The league is setup like many soccer leagues, where teams are relegated or promoted based on their results. The top two teams in the Second Division will be promoted each year, while the bottom four teams of the First Division will play a tournament to decide which two squads will be relegated.

The league will also have a Third Division, which will consist of 9 semi-pro teams.