The Los Angeles Lakers new boy's battle against racism
Forward Rui Hachimura made the headlines in the NBA late last month, when he joined the LA Lakers.
Hachimura was born in Japan’s Toyama Prefecture in 1998, to a Japanese mother and a Beninese father.
A talented all-round sportsman, he was also a promising baseball player in his youth, before finally opting to pursue basketball.
In a country where the Japanese people constitute almost 99% of the population, racism against minority ethnic groups is a serious problem.
Hachimura says other kids would ostracize him because he was Black. He used to wonder whether his father was “the only Black person in Japan”.
But Hachimura didn’t shy away from his roots, and first visited Benin when he was seven. “I’m very proud to be half-African, half-Japanese," he says.
In 2016, he left Japan for US college basketball, joining Gonzaga. He found life in America a culture shock, and struggled with the language.
However, Hachimura ended up starring for the Bulldogs, and the Washington Wizards selected him at No. 9 in the 2019 NBA Draft.
A 6ft 8in forward blessed with an abundance of offensive talent, Hachimura has huge potential - but he’s yet to fully take off as a player.
In his third NBA season, 2021/22, he missed the opening months of the campaign for “personal reasons”. He returned to action in January 2022.
Together with wrestler Yui Susaki, Hachimura was a flag bearer for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
At 24 and with his best years still ahead of him, he has now arrived in LA for his next great adventure: playing alongside LeBron James.