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Golden Kings are Okinawa sports emissaries

By: By Jun Ikemura

Date Posted: 2011-11-18

GO! GO! KINGS! Have you heard such shouts yet?

If not, you will soon, because that is the shout for cheering on the Ryukyu Golden Kings, Okinawa’s pro basketball team. The Ryukyu Golden Kings are already on a roll this season, now 8-2 with a pair of weekend victories over Miyazaki, and coach Dai Oketani’s eye is on yet another championship. Okinawa took the Basketball Japan League title in 2009, and nearly did so again last season.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings joined the league five years ago as the first professional sports team in Okinawa. When you visit the home games arena, you quickly feel the electricity and excitement in the atmosphere. Of course, if you already experienced the NBA pro basketball, you might feel the B-J League a bit small market and small scale. Most of the time when games are held at the home arena in Okinawa, the seats are occupied! Enthusiastic fans are cheering players all the time as if they all were the sixth players of the team on the court! We really recommend you watch a Golden Kings game, and you can join the Kings booster club and feel like the sixth player with the Kings!

The Golden Kings entered the league with the motto of “Cheer more up Okinawa!” They say sports can create those special energies that generate feelings like “Exciting”, “Impression”, Passion”, “Courage”, “Desire” and “Dream”. Those feelings effect the people, local society and contribute to the well being of the community, all helping the squad get involved with the motto “Cheer more up all Okinawa!” as they step onto the hardwood.

The team’s name Ryukyu Golden Kings was decided by public opinion, with people wanting links with the past. As you may know, Okinawa was the Ryukyu Kingdom in ancient times., and the “Gold” and “Kings” were chosen because of wanting the team to be strong as a King and match the color Gold worn by a King. The logo mark stands for the head of dragon --as you know, the dragon is the divine statue of Asia, of course in the Ryukyu Kingdom it was too-- and the crown of King of Ryukyu.

The Golden Kings won the league championship the season 2008-2009, their second season in the league, and that was a super jump sprint for the team because the year before, their first season, they finished in last place on B-J League. After that season, the Golden Kings have been in the top four of the Western Conference every year. This season, the Kings picked up two new Okinawan players and two new foreign players, hiking the power up from last season.

The key man could be Narito Namizato, wearing #37. He’s valuable, especially when in the second quarter there are only two foreigners and three Japanese on the court, by B-J League rule. Until last year, the Kings were outscored by opposing teams because Japanese members couldn’t play the second quarter. That’s one of the reasons the Kings lost the championship last season.

This year, the Kings got Narito Namizato, who went to the United States for training at the birthplace of basketball on a scholarship. He’s a mighty player, capable of shooting from both inside and out, and of course he’s terrific on assists. He says his goal is to play in the NBA one day, but he will play for the Golden Kings until ready to fulfill his dream. His existence also gives dreams to Okinawan youngsters. He figures if he could play in the U.S., the Okinawan dream would become stronger.

Also added were Reggie Okosa from Nigeria and Dzaflo Larki of the United Kingdom, and Morihisa Yamauchi of Okinawa. Larkai comes to Okinawa from the Hamamatsu Higashi Mikawa Phoenix. Prior to the BJ League, he played in the Spain League in 2008-2009, and the U.K. League in 2009-2010. 'I've been thinking that the Golden Kings we played last year are a great team, with a high level and good communication between coaches and players,' he says, adding 'I'm excited and looking forward to playing in Okinawa.'

Okosa began his professional basketball career in the German Bundesliga in 2004-2005, moving on to play in China for a year, then a couple with the Korean Basketball League where he won a championship in 2008. He came to Japan and the Japan Basketball League in 2009-2010, then ventured to Liga A of Argentina last season. The long-armed 208cm tall player has in past years been chosen a Most Valuable Player. 'I've been hearing about the Golden Kings,' he says, 'and I wanted to play here when I came back to Asia.'

Why is basketball so popular in Okinawa?

According to Nao Itokazu of the Golden Kings press staff, “most of all the other prefectures in Japan don’t find basketball as popular as here in Okinawa, because Okinawans have grown up with the culture of American sports and surrounding American atmosphere for a very long time, and we’ve played basketball with Americans since being kids”. Itokazu says “We want more and more foreigner to come and watch the games on the home court, and share power, energy and joy”. He also adds “Okinawan people like and take care of each other, and that’s why fans invite other fans, and share the atmosphere at the court. You can become a friend even just by sitting next to a stranger. Such factors makes Kings strong too, I think”.

Nao is one of those who is wrapped totally in the Golden Kings, because he was working as a salesman in Tokyo before Kings squad was born. Once he got news that Okinawa would create a professional basketball team, he suddenly quit his job and came back here to work for the Kings. Yes, he is the man!

The Basketball Japan League expanded to 19 teams this season; it was supposed to be 20 teams, with four new squads, but the Tokyo Apache bowed out for the year. The new teams are the Yokohama B-Corsairs, the Iwate Big Bulls, Shinshu Brave Warriors and the Chiba Jets.

The B-J League is a kind of entertainment show, with spectators wanting to watch two-meter-tall players slam dunk shots while small players play acrobatic and speedily up and down the court. The dynamic sound and spotlight system at the Kings’ home court at the Okinawa, and the half-time show with the Kings Dancers, will excite you absolutely!

All home game ticket prices are reasonably priced. An advance ticket for court side A is ¥4,000, while the same ticket at the door is also ¥4,500. An arena reserved seat for advance is ¥2,800 and at the door is ¥3,300. Open seating in advance on the 1st floor is ¥2,300 for adults and ¥1,500 for kids. Tickets at the door are ¥2,800 for adults and ¥2,000 for children., Open seating advance tickets for the 2nd floor are ¥1,800 for adults and ¥900 for children. Those same tickets at the door are ¥2,000 for adults and ¥1,000 for kids.
Some of the other ticket plans include:

» 1st Floor Designated Seating Area
Courtside S: 4,500 yen
Courtside A: 4,000 yen
Arena Seating: 2,800 yen (3,300 yen at door)
» Free Seating (First Come First Serve)
1st Floor Free Seating: 2,300 yen (2,800 yen at door)
1st Floor Free Seating (Children ages 14 and under) 1,500 yen (2,000 yen at door)
2nd Floor Free Seating: 1,800 yen (2,000 yen at door)
2nd Floor Free Seating (Children ages 14 and under): 900 yen (1,000 yen at door)

Season Ticket Packages
» Courtside Season Tickets
Enjoy all 24 remaining home games from courtside (front row) in the comfort of a specially crafted Kings seat. Reserve the same seat all year long!
Type: Courtside S, Courtside A (Designated Seating First Row and Second Row)
Games: All 26 remaining games 
 Courtside A: ¥72,000 - Price if purchased individually¥4,000 
Arena Seating:¥ 55,200 - Price if purchased individually ¥2,800

Home Games:
Tickets can be purchased at Kadena ITT (959-4322), MCCS Tours+ (646-3502), FamilyMart, Aeon shopping centers, Sports DEPOT, and door tickets at each home game stadiums.

For more information of Golden Kings, check here. http://www.okinawa-basketball.jp/english/information/

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