Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is one of the hottest Japanese players in North America at the momenta, and the Japanese media followed him quite closely during the 2019 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Even 61 credentialed journalists and 21 different media outlets covered Hachimura’s performance in the summer league. Rui is so popular that the journalists are even present at his practices with the Wizards.
The Japanese are always thrilled to have the NBA players, but Hachimura’s popularity is something else. Hachimura is the first Japanese player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft when the Wizards picked him with the 9th overall.
However, all the fuss is nothing new to Hachimura who is well aware how people in Japan are reacting to athletes, especially to those playing abroad, in America, to be exact.
“I am used to it now, especially after the draft. It was crazy talking English and Japanese back and forth. But I have gotten used to it,” Hachimura told The Undefeated. “One of my jobs is to represent Japan. People want to see me right now. I’m everywhere right now in Japan on TV, newspapers. I am doing it for my country and the little kids watching me.”
Unlike other Japanese athletes such as MLB stars Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani, and Ichiro Suzuki who are playing in North America, Hachimura doesn’t use a translator. Rui is a self-taught and he learned English by playing video games, watching Netflix, and listening to rap music, which is a big advantage over his compatriots in America. They are primarily answering questions from the American media in English thanks to a translator and then in Japanese with their native press.
“The difference is I don’t use a translator,” Hachimura said. “But it’s good for me because I learned the language and speak English and Japanese too. It makes me smart because it strains on my brain.”
Hachimura was one of the best players in NCAA last year as he averaged a team-high 19.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg for Gonzaga as a junior. He earned the 2019 West Coast Conference Player of the Year award and a consensus first-team All-America selection. He was also selected to the 2019 NBA Summer League second team.