- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The NBA announced that Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, the Japanese-born ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, topped the list of best-selling jerseys in Japan.

Hachimura has become a phenomenon in his home country, which had not previously had a basketball star to call its own. Twenty-four percent of all NBA jersey sales in Japan are now Hachimura jerseys, according to a press release from NBA Asia.

Coming in behind Hachimura were LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in second through fifth place.

The Wizards have expanded marketing efforts in Japan this year, and it’s starting to pay off. In terms of total merchandise sales, they were rated the second-most popular NBA team in the country of more than 125 million, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers and ahead of teams like the Golden State Warriors, who have won three championships in the last five years.

The Wizards accounted for 13% of all team merchandise sold in Japan, according to the press release. The rankings were based on online sales on NBAStore.jp from the start of the current NBA season through January.

“He’s loved,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Hachimura. “He’s loved by his teammates, his coaching staff, the organization, obviously the fan base in Japan. Globally I think he just has a good game and he has a great personality … Having the No. 1 jersey in Japan, that probably doesn’t surprise me.”

Brooks credited late NBA commissioner David Stern for making basketball “a worldwide game” and current commissioner Adam Silver for taking it “to another level.”

Hachimura missed about six weeks of the season with a groin injury but returned to action Feb. 3 and played for Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. In 33 appearances, he has averaged 13.8 points and six rebounds per game.

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