Pro Basketball in Japan B.League

Japanese Pro Basketball Bリーグ

Marshall Hughes

A few years ago, pro basketball in Japan was a mess, with too many teams in too many leagues (and too few fans), with little cooperation between the various factions.

Finally, in late 2014, FIBA (basically the basketball version of soccer's FIFA) said "assez c'est assez" (enough is enough) and suspended participation of Japanese basketball in all international competitions. The main reason given was the failure of the Japan Basketball Association to merge the National Basketball League (NBL), which had been around for decades, and the bj league, which was formed in 2005.

Japan's basketball bigwigs started to cooperate, and out of the ruins came the B.League, the merging of the two leagues. The B. League has three division, with 18 teams each in Division 1 and Division 2, and nine teams in the semi-professional Division 3. (See bottom for listing of teams). Division 1, the top division, and Division 2 are divided into Eastern, Western and Central conferences with six teams in each conference.

Basketball in Japan.
Basketball in Japan

Each Division 1 team can have three foreigners. Anybody who was born in and finished elementary school in Japan is considered to be Japanese for the purposes of this rule. Also, each team can have one naturalized player.

Only two foreigners are allowed to be on the floor at one time, and foreigners are allowed only to play a combined six quarters a game. Phew!

Like the J-League, Japan's pro soccer league, and European soccer leagues, there are promotions and relegations (demotions) at the end of each year. These are between the top two divisions. Basically three teams are promoted and three teams are relegated each season. This number, however, is not set in stone.

The first game of the new B. League was played on September 22, 2016, at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, with an interesting twist.

The floor of the gym is covered by LED screens, giving the game a feel of watching a video game.

The B.League got a huge boost at the beginning of the 2016-17 season when telecommunications giant Softbank became a sponsor of the league - a very large sponsor.

Softbank reportedly planned to spend billions of yen to support the league in its inaugural season.

Some media reports put the amount north of ¥3 billion yen ($2.62 million US dollars). For its investment, Softbank got exclusive rights to webcast all B.League games to smartphones, tablets and PC users.

If you decide to watch a game, two of the more notable players (as of the 2016-17 season) are Tochigi Brex' Yuta Tabuse, the first Japan-born Japanese to play in the NBA, and Levanga Hokkaido's 46-year-old Takehiko Orimo. Tabuse played four games for the Phoenix Suns of the NBA in the 2004-05 season.

Division 1 Teams (Top Division) 2017

East Conference

Team Location Arena Previous League
Akita Northern Happinets Akita CNA Arena Akita bj-league
Alvark Tokyo Fuchu, Tokyo Yoyogi National Gymnasium NBL
Chiba Jets Funabashi, Chiba Funabashi Arena NBL
Levanga Hokkaido Sapporo, Hokkaido Hokkaido Kitayell NBL
Link Tochigi Brex Utsunomiya, Tochigi Brex Arena Utsunomiya NBL
Sendai 89ers Sendai, Miyagi Kamei Arena Sendai bj-league

Central Conference

Team Location Arena Previous League
Hitachi SunRockers Tokyo-Shibuya Tokyo Aoyama Gakuin University Gymnasium NBL
Niigata Albirex BB Nagaoka, Niigata City Hall Plaza Ao-re Nagaoka bj-league
SAN-EN NeoPhoenix Toyohashi, Aichi Toyohashi City General Gymnasium bj-league
Toshiba Kawasaki Brave Thunders Kawasaki, Kanagawa Kawasaki Todoroki Arena NBL
Toyama Grouses Toyama, Toyama Toyama City Gymnasium bj-league
Yokohama B-Corsairs Yokohama, Kanagawa Yokohama International Swimming Pool bj-league

West Conference

Team Location Arena Previous League
Kyoto Hannaryz Kyoto Hannaryz Arena (Kyoto Municipal Gymnasium) bj-league
Nagoya Diamond Dolphins Nagoya, Aichi Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium NBL
Osaka Evessa Osaka, Osaka Fumin Kyosai Super Arena bj-league
Ryukyu Golden Kings Okinawa, Okinawa Okinawa City Gymnasium bj-league
SeaHorses Mikawa Kariya, Aichi Wing Arena Kariya NBL
Shiga Lakestars Otsu, Shiga Ukaruchan Arena bj-league

Division 2 Teams 2017

East Conference

Aomori Wat's (Aomori), Cyberdyne Ibaraki Robots (Tsukuba), Fukushima Firebonds (Koriyama), Gunma Crane Thunders (Maebashi), Iwate Big Bulls (Morioka), Passlab Yamagata Wyverns (Yamagata)

Central Conference

Bambitious Nara (Nara), Earth Friends Tokyo Z (Ota, Tokyo), Nishinomiya Storks (Nishinomiya), Shinshu Brave Warriors (Chikuma), Tokyo Excellence (Itabashi, Tokyo), Toyotsu Fighting Eagles Nagoya (Nagoya)

West Conference

Ehime Orange Vikings (Matsuyama), Hiroshima Dragonflies (Hiroshima), Kagawa Five Arrows (Takamatsu), Kagoshima Rebnise (Kagoshima), Kumamoto Volters (Kumamoto), Shimane Susanoo Magic (Matsue)

Third Division

Aisin AW Areions (Anjo), Kanazawa Samuraiz (Kanazawa), Otsuka Corporation Alphas (Tokyo), Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka (Fukuoka), Saitama Broncos (Tokorozawa), Tokio Marine Nichido Big Blue (Nerima, Tokyo), Tokyo Cinq Rêves (Chofu, Tokyo), Tokyo Hachioji Trains (Hachioji, Tokyo), Toyoda Gosei Scorpions (Kiyosu)



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