Earlier this month, Takehiko Orimo turned 50. He played his last pro basketball game on March 15. Along the way he scored more than 10,000 points. Here’s a look back at his legendary career, with insights from Orimo, coaches Zeljko Pavlicevic, Tomoya Higashino and Dwane Casey and former teammate Jawad Williams in an in-depth column.
By Ed Odeven
For 27 seasons, Takehiko Orimo’s never-wavering commitment to his craft was on display on the basketball court.
For 27 seasons, Orimo possessed an uncanny ability to bury jump shots from far beyond the 3-point arc, and from closer spots.
With magnificent shooting mechanics and a quick release, Orimo, who’s the current Levanga Hokkaido president, made his mark as a dominant player, performing with steely determination in the JBL, Super League, NBL and B. League eras. Quietly, his 27-season pro career concluded several weeks ago.
A spirited send-off for the native of Ageo, Saitama Prefecture didn’t follow the normal script, though.
The 2019-20 B. League season was canceled early due to the COVID-19 pandemic in late March. But tributes from throughout Japan’s basketball community have helped put the nine-time All-Star MVP’s career in focus.
Orimo turns 50 on Thursday. The iconic shooting guard played his final game on March 15 against the host Kawasaki Brave Thunders, finishing with five points, including 1-for-2 from 3-point range, in 15-plus minutes in a blowout loss. After announcing before the season began that he would retire this spring, Orimo saw limited action in his final sayonara season. He averaged 1.5 points in 19 games.
“It was a difficult season,” Orimo admitted on May 3 during a news conference streamed online, noting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused B. League Chairman Masaaki Okawa to suspend the season twice before canceling it early in late March.
Reflecting on his unprecedented career and countless special memories, Orimo succinctly summed it up like this: “Well, it’s been a good basketball life.”
In 2018-19, Orimo scored 6.4 points-per-game in 59 games (two starts), including a pair of 19-point efforts, and 7.9 in 2017-18 while appearing in all 60 games (three starts). In the B. League’s inaugural 2016-17 season, he averaged 8.9 points in 60 games (12 starts).
Earlier this century, the 190-cm veteran averaged 17.3 points in the 2010-11 for Hokkaido and 16.3 the next season. During his heyday, first for the Toyota Motors Pacers (who changed their team nickname to Alvark in 2000), Orimo was a consistent, accomplished scorer in the JBL, starting with a 19.3 ppg average as a rookie in 1993-94. He averaged 20 or more points six times, including a career-best 22.6 in 2003-04. What’s more, he finished with 19.9 ppg in two additional seasons.
During the B. League Award Show, which was held over three nights online last weekend, Orimo was honored as the first recipient of the league’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Appearing on video, Orimo spoke about the honor with sincere gratitude.
“I have received such an honorable award,” he commented. “I played for 27 years, which is such a long time. But I feel like it’s paid off with this award.”
Former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Jawad Williams, who played alongside future Basketball Hall of Famer LeBron James in Cleveland (2008-10), said in an exclusive interview that Orimo had a commanding persona on the court.
“Orimo always played with calm demeanor,” said Williams, who competed with Orimo on the Rera Kamuy Hokkaido (2007-08), told JAPAN Forward’s Odds and Evens. “He never got too high or too low, that’s tough to do.”
More than a decade later, Williams watched Orimo competeー and produceー against players half his age.
“Orimo’s legacy is his longevity and his part in contributing to basketball in Japan,” noted Williams, who helped the Alvark Tokyo win back-to-back B. League titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19 before joining the Utsunomiya Brex this season.
“His ability to catch and shoot remained top notch,” Williams observed. “Especially those pin-down jump shots.”
Asked if Orimo had the skills in his younger years to challenge for a spot on an NBA roster, Williams responded by saying, “Possibly. There is always room for a shooter.”
The University of North Carolina alum, who played on the school’s 2005 national championship squad, continued by noting that Orimo reminded him most of former NBA standout Richard “Rip” Hamilton.
Orimo sank the 1,000th 3-pointer of his long career on November 4, 2017, in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, in a game against the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
On Jan. 5, 2019, Orimo reached the 10,000-point career plateau against the SeaHorses Mikawa in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture. He became the first Japanese player to accomplish the 6.. (Earlier, he scored his 7,000th point in 2011, then passed the 8,000-point plateau in 2013, and topped 9,000 points in 2016.)
In the middle of Japan’s Golden Week holiday week at the end of April-beginning of May, Orimo looked back on his career and reflected on the way it ended.
“In the end, I couldn’t play in front of the fans and it was a regrettable season, but I did my best,” Orimo said.
The full story (continue reading here): https://japan-forward.com/odds-and-evens-celebrating-hoop-legend-takehiko-orimos-career-50th-birthday/