The 2019-2020 NBA season hasn’t even started yet and things are already getting wild. The Toronto Raptors landed in Japan on October 6, 2019, to prepare for two games against the Houston Rockets. The Raptors partook in some traditional Japanese competitive sport before their first match at the 2019 NBA Japan Games.
The Raptors may mostly be basketball gods in Toronto, but the hype was real in Tokyo. Fans swarmed the players as they arrived at the airport in Japan. Selfies, autographs, and other heartwarming moments of fandom took place in anticipation of the NBA’s return to Japan. The league hasn’t been to the country for 16 years.
The Raptors started their trip with a visit to a sumo wrestler training facility. The boys watched as the Japanese professionals laid out the rules of the traditional martial art. Then, a few of the Raptors even got inside the dohyo themselves to test their sumo skills.
😂😂😂 @iAmSJ | #WeTheNorth https://t.co/UDJkOyeeCy— Toronto Raptors (@Toronto Raptors)1570416713.0
Battle of Heavyweights Stormin’ Norman v. Stanimal https://t.co/dqgnwbrf3n— Toronto Raptors (@Toronto Raptors)1570415672.0
Norman Powell and Stanley Johnson stepped into the ring for a brief face-off before bursting into laughter and calling it quits. Johnson later decided to take on a more seasoned sumo wrestler, but quickly bowed out when he realized what he was up against.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse recently opened to the Japan Times about the excitement surrounding the Raptors trip to the country:
“I’m sure that we’ll find great NBA fans there, in Japan and Tokyo, and they are going to see two of the best teams in the NBA come over there, so they are going to see a lot of star power, a lot of talent … and I think it’s great,” Nurse said. “We’re excited to come over there and put on a good show for them.”
The Raptors, similarly, made headlines during their pre-season training in Quebec City. The team did their best to represent all Canadians by filming a French-speaking promo. It was a touching gesture, although some of the players clearly struggled with the language.