In Basketball

Last modified on November 5, 2004

Tabuse's NBA debut
24 year-old Yuta Tabuse became the first Japanese to play in the NBA on Nov 3. He was not only on the roster for the Phoenix Suns, he was given a chance to play, and he achieved a 3 pointer. The Suns beat the Atland Hawks 112 to 82.

Women's team win berth to the Olympics
Japan's women's team played South Korea in the semi-finals of the Asian Championship on Jan 18. It was a very very competitive game where they had to extend the game. In the end, Japan clinched the game 81 to 72. And as Japan has secured at least 2nd place, it's won the ticket to the Olympic Games in Athens. Japan has not been in the Olympics since 1996. P> IN 2002
Isuzu to close teams
It was learned on Feb 7 that Isuzu Motor will shut down some of its sports clubs. It's their basketball and baseball teams. The men's basketball tteam has won the national championship 4 times in a row since 1995. The baseball team has advanced to the nationals 13 times.

IN 2001
Japan Energy beats Chanson for league title
For the first time in 11 years, Japan Energy beat Chanson Cosmetics to clinch the women's league title on Mar. 7. It was in the 4th game of the play off that Japan Energy secured the victory by winning 95 to 78. The champion team's Noriko Hamaguchi was chose MVP.

Isuzu wins back title
It was again, Isuzu meeting Toshiba in the Japan championship. But, Isuzu with scores by its stars Kenichi Sako, Michael Takahashi and Lucius Davis clinched the game 79 to 61 on Jan. 8. Just on the previous day, in the women's,Japan Energy avenged last champion Chanson 68 to 64. It's Japan Energy's 10th title.

IN 2000
Isuzu defeated in championship
It's the first time in 5 years that Isuzu lost in the Japan championship. It played a best of 3 finals against Toshiba. What happened was in the 2nd game, it's leading player Kenichi Sako broke his nose. That cost the team a defeat. In the final game on Apr. 4, Sako, although not fully recovered played. Still, Isuzu lost 66 to 82 and gave up the title.

IN 1999
Japan fails to win Olympic berth in Asian championship
On May 9, the final of the Asian Basketball Confederation Champoinship for Women was fought between Japan and S. Korea in Shizuoka. The win would mean a berth to the Olympic Games in Sidney. Japan's hopes were high because they proceed to the final round ranked first. But S. Korea was ahead most of the time. Japan took the lead just within a minute to the end of the game. But the S.Koreans hit the basket well and clinched the game 68 to 65.

Teenager is Japan's first world select
On Feb. 24, 18 year old Yuichi Tabuse held a press conference. It's to announce that he has been chosen to play on the under 20 world select team that will play against the U.S junior all stars in Florida on Mar. 28. Tabuse's high school team in Akita captured national athletic meet events 3 times in a row. He himself is a member of the national team. During the press conference, Tabuse expressed his wish to apply for university in the U.S. and play there.

A dramatic final game for Hagiwara
Mikiko Hagiwara's final game was, in fact, the championship game. Her team Japan Energy faced Chanson Cosmetics on Jan. 9 at Tokyo's Yoyogi Gymnasium. Chanson was ahead by 3 points in 1st half of the game. Just before the end of the final half, Hagiwara succeeded in a 3 point shoot. Japan Energy defeated Chanson Cosmetics 75 to 72 for the national title 3 years in a row.

IN 1998
Hagiwara decides to quit
It was made known on Aug. 4, that Mikiko Hagiwara does not intend to play basketball after this season. Instead, she plans to go to college. Hagiwara left WNBA team, Phoenix Mercury on July 31. She hopes to finish the season with Japan Energy.

Japan in the 13th World Championship
Japan, for the first time in 31 years qualified to the World Basketball Championship for Men. The game opened in Athens on July 29 with 16 teams taking part. Japan's lost to Nigeria 60 to 70 on Aug. 3 already decided their ranking. That's 14th place.

Historical win for women's team
Chanson Cosmetics faced Japan Energy in the women's final in the Japan Basketball League on Mar. 2. It was a seesaw game. In the end, Chanson's successful free throws enabled the team to win by 3 points, that is, 72 to 69. Chanson has clinched its 8th consecutive national title. This is a Japan record. Atlanta Olympic player Murakami played her last game.

Final game for Japan Energy
The 60 year-old basketball club of corporate Japan Energy played its final game on Feb. 25. It decided in Sept. 1997, that due to economic reason, the club most be closed. The season began Oct. 17, 1997. Japan Energy was hoping to proceed to the final of the Japan League but was unable to. It even lost their final game to NKK, 73 to 68. All 12 players are hoping to continue basketball on other corporate teams.

All Japan Championship
With only 31 seconds left, Kaori Kawakami of Japan Energy succeeded in hurling a 3 point shoot. Japan Energy won a dramatic victory of 73 to 72 over Chanson Cosmetics on Jan. 10, 1998 in the all Japan basketball championship. Japan's first woman pro, Mikiko Hagiwara was also one of the main players to contribute to the team's 2nd consecutive title. Japan Energy also played in the men's final held the following day. However, it was defeated by Isuzu Motors in a competitive game of 97 to 90. Japan Energy will discontinue its men's team after this season due to financial difficulties.

IN 1997
Hagiwara with the WNBA
June 21 to Aug.24
Playoff between 4 teams: Aug.28
Finals: Aug.30
Mikiko Hagiwara's final game was in the playoffs between the Phoenix Mercury and the New York Liberty. She had one field goal in the semi-final where her team, Mercury lost 41 to 59. She finished the season with 76 points, playing in 26 games. She only started in 7 games.

On Aug. 2, Hagiwara played as a member of the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA. She was traded to the team from the Sacramento Monarchs on July 31. Unfortunately, her supportive throws did not help her new team to beat the New York Liberty. The Mercury lost 70 to 78.

Hagiwara played as the only Japanese in the newly launched WNBA or the Women's National Basketball Association in the US. She played, first, as a member of the Sacramento Monarchs. She came on the court after the 6th minute of the first half of the game played against the Utah Starzz for her debut game. Hagiwara succeeded in shooting for 3 points in the 12th minute--that's before a crowd of 8915 in Salt Lake City. The Monarchs won the opener 70 to 60.
Michiyo's Note: I talked with man who was the manager of Japan Energy, Hagiwara's team in Japan. He said that she was outstanding from her high school days, and had improved greatly since.

Magic Johnson plays against the best in Japan
Magic Johnson's All Stars played all over Japan from May 31 to June 10. It's his 2nd Japan tour. His teammates included former Atlanta Hawks Anthony Webb and former Lakers Mike McGee. They played against the Japan national team. The first game was pretty exciting. In the very beginning, Japan was ahead of the American team, but the game finished 101 to 79 for the Magic Johnson team. It was a close enough game though, considering Japan's performance the previous year. All in all, the Magic Johnson All Stars defeated Japan in all 5 games.
Michiyo's Note: I went to the first game and it was worth watching. I thought Japan did pretty well, especially Makoto Hasegawa. And there are a few tall Japanese players. 6 players are over 2 meters!

Japan Basketball League finals
The final match on Mar.16 was very competitive. During the first half of the game, Toyota took the lead by 11 points. Then as soon as the later half took off, Isuzu player Kenichi Sako scored points after points. In the end, Isuzu defeated Toyota by a margin. That's 64 to 61. This is Isuzu's 3rd victory in the men's basketball league.

Japan's first professional woman
Mikiko Hagiwara will be joining the Women's National Basketball Association in the USA for the coming season. This was officially announced on Feb.4. Hagiwara was the 2nd highest scorer at the Atlanta Olympic Games. She will be playing in the WNBA from June to August. Meanwhile, she will retain her contract with her Japanese team, Japan Energy. The season in the US does not overlap with the Japanese season. Her contract for the 3 months is estimated to be 40,000 dollars. Hagiwara is expected to join practice for the WNBA season on May 28.

Japan hopes to host 2002 World Championships
The Japan Olympic Committee disclosed on Jan. 13 that Japan will make a bid for the 2002 championships. The venue is planned to be built in Saitama Prefecture by the year 2000 and is expected to have a capacity for 37,000 spectators. The 2002 World Championships is scheduled between July 15 and August 15. It will not overlap with the 2002 World Cup for soccer which is from June to July. The host country will be decided in Nov. 1997.

IN 1996
Tragic death of a former star
Former MVP player Masaaki Mikami's body was found charred from a blaze at his home in Yamagata Prefecture on Feb.11. 4 other family members survived. Mikami was the ace player of Matsushita Electric and led the team to 5 straight league victories in the late 80s. He was named Most Valuable Player twice. 2 days after the tragedy, Matsushita Electric won the Japan Basketball League for the 9th time. Mikami was 40 years old.

Orlando Magic vs. New Jersey Nets in Tokyo
The official NBA game has been held in Tokyo. Orlando Magic faced the New Jersey Nets on the 7th and the 9th of November. An unbelievable number of spectators packed to see the US stars, or nearly 40,000 people on both days. The Tokyo Dome, which is best known as the franchise of pro baseball teams, Nippon Ham Fighters and the Tokyo Giants has been transformed for the basketball game. The baseball nets which normally creates a border between the stands and the field were taken down for the first time. The result of the first game, was 109 to 95. Magic won without Shaquille O'Neal who just moved to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a close, 86 to 82, and a win again for Magic on Nov. 9.

A women's corporate basketball team's 100th straight win
On Oct. 9, Chanson Cosmetics defeated Mitsui Seimei 84 to 73. Chanson has been winning all games since Feb. 3, 1991, and has become league champion 6 years in a row. The team that has had the most number of straight wins before Chanson was Unitika Yamazaki at 44.

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