This is the intro to a column that appeared in The Japan Times.
By Ed Odeven
Do yourself a favor. Set aside 30 minutes to watch a short documentary. Actually, that’s enough time to watch it twice. Do it twice. You’ll come away with an even greater appreciation for the crisp cinematography, lively action and compelling insights more by absorbing the information twice.
The new bilingual documentary, “The Rising: Hoop Origins with Stephen Curry,” which made its global debut last week on his YouTube channel, is a celebration of grassroots basketball in Tokyo.
It’s nice to see the superstar in his element, talking about the game and learning about influential folks behind the scenes who’ve also helped shape Japan’s basketball culture.
It’s a positive diversion from the following, too: Curry broke his left hand in this season’s fourth game and remains sidelined, and the Golden State Warriors (8-24 through Wednesday) are experiencing the opposite end of the performance spectrum after their glorious run of five straight NBA Finals in the Steve Kerr era.
Clearly, the project was released at the perfect time — Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura’s rookie season. After all, interest in the NBA in Japan is at its highest point since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six NBA titles in the 1990s.
In the past, this newspaper chronicled Curry’s trips to Japan, providing details on basketball clinics and promotional tours for Under Armour. This documentary, which was produced by Rakuten, gives viewers an inside look at Curry’s June visit to Tokyo during his Underrated Tour stop.
Tokyo Samurai Basketball Club director/head coach Kris Thiesen, who is introduced early in the documentary, shared one of his top goals as a mentor.
“I want to take my passion and kind of give it to them because I think they are passionate about it, too,” Thiesen said.
Video footage of streetball games from the early 2000s appears in the film, too, with Ballaholic brand founders Keita Suzuki and Yoshikazu Tanamachi, who also organized the streetball league, SOMECITY HQ, reminiscing and talking about their efforts to grow the sport.
Throughout the 15-minute documentary, Curry’s positive interactions with those involved in Japanese basketball are shown.
In addition, snippets of biographical information and how important basketball is in the daily lives of teenage players Noa Gustafson, Junn Broons and Reina Fukuo are included. And we learn of the self-confidence the sport has given them.
“If I didn’t have basketball, I would just be a tall person,” Fukuo said.
Freestyle basketball player Jinji Takeuchi combines dribbles, spins and dances choreographed to music while displaying exceptional body control.
Another form of artistic expression is featured, too. Illustrator Dai Tamura, revealed his love of sketching basketball players began with Jordan.
Tamura met Curry at one of Tokyo’s outdoor courts, where the artist gave the player one of his richly detailed illustrations of Curry.
Their introductory greetings were genuine and funny.
“You gave me big muscles,” Curry said after glancing at the illustration.
“To me, you’re a super hero,” Tamura said through a translator.