Interviewed by ESPN, San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills has confirmed he will participate in the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, with a clear goal in his mind. “Oh, it’s crystal clear, mate. No hesitation at all. I think everyone is well aware of that, throughout the program, the team, obviously Goorjan, players as well… there’s no doubt about it. Not a single ounce of blood in my body says otherwise. I’m fully committed, and it obviously comes from a very genuine place and the goal that we have as a team… and we are very determined to accomplish it. We have an absolute chance to achieve that in Tokyo. Everyone who’s a part of that program right now, from the head coach all the way to the equipment manager, everyone’s gotta be locked in and feel the exact same way as we feel: determined, fire burning inside, desire to do everything we possibly can to win this gold medal”, Mills said.
Hachimura’s XXXIV Heritage shoes were released earlier this year exclusively in his native Japan. The Warrior retails for $180. “I grew up in a small town (Toyama) that’s six hours away from Tokyo,” Hachimura said in an article on AirJordan.com. “My family was the only Black family in the city. When I grew up and started playing basketball, I started to gain more respect but it was hard, especially for my brother and sisters. It was a different experience for us growing up. I love seeing my logo on it. It means Black Samurai. I grew up in Japan as a Black man and went through a lot of things. My logo is for my family and other mixed-race kids. I want to inspire those kids.”
Nikuro is a VIP guest of the Wizards in the bubble. He’s a virtual VIP guest, to be specific, which is why no one in the arena batted an eye when the 21-year-old wandered onto the court in the middle of a game. To be clear: Nikuro isn’t a real person. He’s one of a growing number of computer-generated virtual influencers, almost-human-looking characters manufactured by venture capital-backed technology companies across the world to serve as brand ambassadors in the music, fashion and entertainment industries. Nikuro, who was created by Tokyo-based 1Sec Inc., is the first such character to be employed by an NBA team. “We just thought it was a really unique and great way to connect with a younger generation and a new audience for us,” said Jim Van Stone, president of business operations for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Wizards.
Booker’s digging led her to Nikuro, whose Tokyo-based creator bills the character as Japan’s first male virtual influencer. He’s a basketball fan who splits his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles. He loves music, including Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber and Kendrick Lamar. “He may be fake, but he has a real personality,” 1Sec CEO Hirokuni Genie Miyaji told the Japan Times last year. Like Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura, Nikuro is half Japanese, which made him an especially good fit for the team. “I just felt like that ties in perfectly with the story we’re building here with Rui,” Booker said. “He doesn’t have the millions of followers that some of the other virtual influencers do, but his story line is resonating [in Japan].”
Darren Rovell: Read this one very closely. The @WashWizards have struck a deal with 1Sec Inc. in Japan to put their digital human influencer Liam Nikuro inside the NBA bubble to have virtual adventures in Orlando associated with the team. @TedLeonsis, @ZacharyLeonsis, you guys blow my mind.
Zach Leonsis: The @WashWizards digital team is doing some really impressive work. They deserve the credit here! The @NBA has always been on the forefront of technology and experimentation. What better time to try new things than now. #RepTheDistrict #WholeNewGame