The Movie Animation Earns Over 10 Billion Yen at the Box Office – What Is the “Slam Dunk Scholarship” Launched by Takehiko Inoue?
New book in the spotlight! Interview with Slam Dunk Scholarship Students: The World Beyond
Basketball Boom Arrives in Japan Again!
The movie version of the anime “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK” has been a hit since its release on December 3 last year, finally surpassing the 10 billion yen mark at the box office. Its popularity has been reported in various media, and combined with its overseas popularity, it has become a “social phenomenon. In addition to this momentum, Japanese players Rui Yamura (Los Angeles Lakers) and Yuta Watanabe (Brooklyn Nets) have been active in the NBA, creating a daily buzz. In Japan, the B-League will complete the Okinawa Arena in 2021 as the home of the Ryukyu Golden Kings, and in April of this year, the OPEN HOUSE ARENA OTA is scheduled for completion as the new home of the Gunma Crain Thunderz. The arena has been increasing its presence in professional sports, and is booming, creating a unique space in terms of staging and other aspects not found in baseball and soccer. In addition, the World Cup will be held in Japan this August under the joint sponsorship of the Philippines and Indonesia. Just as a basketball boom was once triggered when “SLAM DUNK” was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, basketball popularity is now being rekindled.
Under such circumstances, a remarkable book was released in January. It is “Slam Dunk Scholarship Student Interviews: To the World Beyond” (written by Yoko Miyaji and Ryo Ito, published by Shueisha), which compiles the voices of past students of the “Slam Dunk Scholarship” established by the author of the manga “SLAM DUNK” and director of the animated film “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK”, Takehiko Inoue.
Learning not only basketball but also English thoroughly
The “Slam Dunk Scholarship” was started by Mr. Takehiko Inoue, who wanted to give back to the sport of basketball. Since 2008, the scholarship has been offered to students who are expected to graduate from high school or equivalent, and 15 students have been selected by 2022. The scholarship recipients are selected through a selection process and sent to a prep school in the U.S. for a 14-month study abroad program. While several foundations and other organizations offer scholarships to support young people aiming for the world through sports, the “Slam Dunk Scholarship” is unique in that the scholarship is funded by a portion of the royalties from “Slam Dunk.
In this book, we learn about the unknown challenges faced by the 14 scholarship recipients and how the scholarship system itself has evolved through repeated trial and error in order to make their dreams come true. What is surprising is that the scholarship recipients are expected to put in a great deal of effort not only in basketball, but also in their studies.
Although the name “prep school” is not familiar to many, it may be similar to the prep schools that students attend in Japan to prepare for university entrance. Why study at a prep school? To explain briefly, the specific goal of the scholarship is to play in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) in order to “pursue a college or professional career in the United States. Furthermore, the NCAA is grouped into Divisions I through III, and playing in Division I, the highest division, opens the door to the NBA. However, in the NCAA, you are not allowed to play unless you have passed a certain level of academic achievement.
Naturally, all tests are in English. In other words, the scholarship recipients must be able to take specialized courses in English before playing basketball. To this end, they first study abroad at a boarding school called a prep school to acquire the academic skills necessary to enter a university. There, they improve their academic skills in English while playing basketball, and wait to be scouted by NCAA universities. Yuta Watanabe, by the way, also got his NBA dream from a prep school. The St. Thomas More School from which he graduated is also where the current Slam Dunk Scholar studied.
The scholarship recipients, who were very talented in Japan, were amazed by the height, speed, strength, and skill, or at least one of them, when they went to the home of basketball, the United States. In addition, they live in a boarding school surrounded by mountains and snow in the winter. And then there are the days of classes, homework, and self-study, with English at the top of the list. …… Reading this book, you will find that some people felt more lonely, some were stressed out, some fought with teammates, some hid and cried alone, and each person vividly describes the hardships they had to go through that they could not have experienced if they had not gone to the US.
Level 1 18″ at the 18-year-olds are thrown into the world of “Level 10 ” thrown into the world of “Level 10
An 18-year-old immerses himself in a harsh environment in the United States. But not a single one of them gives up on basketball there. This is where we see the value of taking on the challenge of “courageously taking the first step under adverse circumstances. Currently playing point guard for the Gunma Crain Thunders of the B-League, Narito Namisato was a member of the first class of the “Slam Dunk Scholarship”. He is one of the most popular players in the B-League with his “fantasista” style of play, but he also endured a severe ordeal while studying abroad. He had a particularly difficult time with his English.
It was like being thrown into level 10 without going through the steps of level 2, 3, and 4 …….” (quoted from this book, hereafter the same)
However, no matter how much I studied, I could not come to understand. And
I was full of energy. I was under a lot of stress. I even began to wonder if it was really right for me to be here.
I was so stressed out that I even wondered if I was doing the right thing by staying here. The stress caused him to lose his temper and get into a fight with a teammate over a joke. But then he realized something.
He says, “I was on the verge of a flat tire, using my head so fully for both basketball and academics. It was difficult to talk about my problems because I didn’t speak the language. But in those times, my teammates treated me well. I really felt, from the bottom of my heart, that playing basketball in the U.S. was fun. That was the only thing that saved me.
Even if he got into fights with his teammates, he could express himself on the basketball court, and basketball was the only place he could find emotional support. In the end, Namisato was not able to go on to an American university, but that result alone cannot be considered a failure or a setback. Namisato always enjoyed playing basketball, and he acquired a style of play that conveyed this enjoyment to the spectators. By demonstrating this growth as a first-generation student, Namisato became a beacon for the scholarship recipients who followed in his footsteps.
In the near future, an NBA player will be born in the near future.
In this way, the 14 people in this book all faced themselves undeniably in a corner, faced basketball, and ultimately achieved growth that only they could have achieved on their own. Their story sometimes reminds me of a scene from “SLAM DUNK” and sometimes of a scene from the theater version of the anime “THE FIRST SLAM DUNK. If you are currently hesitant about taking on a challenge, I encourage you to read this book and take advantage of the increasing interest in basketball. I am sure you will be interested in basketball and at the same time, you will be encouraged in some way.
Incidentally, the “Slam Dunk Scholarship” has evolved over the years. 14 months of study abroad is enough time to master English. Therefore, the scholarship recipients were given tutors, English conversation tutoring, and TOEFL tests before studying abroad, gradually lowering the English hurdle. In 2022, the 13th student, Taku Tyrell Sudo, entered Northern Illinois University, a Division I NCAA school, becoming the first student to be recruited by a Division I university to attend. Although scholarship applications for the 14th and 15th terms were cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, they were resumed for the 16th term. In the near future, we may see Slam Dunk Scholars playing in the NBA.