A young basketball fan who traveled all the way from Japan to Minnesota to see his first live NBA game is bringing home some great memories.
Not only did he get to watch an exciting game between the Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves that went into overtime on Friday night, but he also got the opportunity to spend some pregame time with Nets star Yuta Watanabe.
Yuta Watanabe Spent Time With A Young Fan Who Traveled From Japan
The Brooklyn Nets shared the experience on their Instagram page captioning the carousel of photos, “Special guest in the house tonight. Yuta spent time pregame with a young fan in a wheelchair who came all the way from Saitama, Japan for his first NBA game.”
The Brooklyn Nets also shared a video montage with the words, “Yuta made his day” captioning the video. The video post is simply captioned, “What it’s all about 🙌,” and shows Watanabe signing jerseys and shirts, taking photos with the young fan and the group he traveled with, and Watanbe shooting the ball after the fan passed it to him.
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Many Nets fans dropped into the comment sections of both posts to leave their thoughts on these wholesome moments that the NBA also shared on their Instagram page.
“This what I love about the NBA. It brings different countries, different nationalities, different races together by drafting players that were born outside the US🤝,” one fan wrote. Another added, “So, We all agree that this little boy deserves a win😊😊.”
One of the people in the photos also posted on their Instagram page and commented on the Nets’ post. “Yuta, thank you so much!!! Nets, thank you for picking us up!!!”
Yuta Watanabe Moved To The U.S. As A Teenager To Begin His Basketball Career
Basketball seemed to be something Watanabe was destined for. Both of his parents played professionally. His mom played for the national team and professionally for the Chanson V-Magic and his father played for the now-defunct Kumagai Gumi Bruins in Tokyo. While watching a Lakers game on TV with his father one day, Watanabe was instantly hooked, and his journey began.
Despite being told that he shouldn’t leave Japan to go play in the U.S., Watanabe followed his dreams.
According to GQ Sports, “The Japanese Basketball Association actually told me, ‘You gotta stay in Japan,'” he said. He then paraphrased their arguments saying, “If you go to the U.S., you’re not going to get playing time. You might get injured. You don’t speak English. So what are you gonna do over there?'” His response, “I was just like, work hard. And make a way.”
And “make a way” he certainly did. At the age of 17, he moved to Oakdale, Connecticut and joined the team at the St. Thomas More prep school. Not long after, he became the first Japanese-born player to earn a Division I scholarship. He attended George Washington University and in 2018 was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
He signed as an undrafted rookie in Memphis and played two years there between the Grizzlies and their G-League affiliate. He had another two-way deal in Toronto and then got his first standard NBA contract in 2021.
This past fall, the Brooklyn Nets brought him to training camp and ended up getting the team’s final roster spot. Watanabe said that during it all, the goal hasn’t changed. “I just always try to do my best every day. I just focus on the present and let things happen,” he said.