The UNITE stories go deeper on Jordan Brand’s new film series celebrating the power of basketball. UNITE is a rallying cry for inspiring and empowering the next generation to never fly alone.

At 21 years young, rising forward Rui Hachimura has become a leader on Team Japan. That much was clear when, during an exhibition game outside of Tokyo last summer, he spearheaded a historic win over Germany. Rui’s 31 points, five rebounds and two steals helped Japan overcome a 12-point deficit. The galvanizing W not only confirmed Rui as a face of Japanese athletics, it brought together fans in a country where basketball continues to grow.

As the first Japanese national drafted in the first round, Rui enters the 2019-2020 season with the support of fan bases from various parts of his journey. There’s love from Gonzaga (his university) to Washington, D.C. (his NBA team), Japan (his mother’s side) and Benin (his father’s side). Rui hopes that, in championing his diverse background, combined with furthering his talent and achievements, he can encourage the next generation of players globally.

“It’s exciting and important to see not just Japanese sports but Japan as a whole coming together,” says Rui. “I’m proud to be part of this as who I am — half-African, half-Japanese. There is a level of pride I have in a global context, of wanting to prove myself. I’m not willing to let myself lose.” 

Rui’s winning mentality was embedded into his identity from the beginning. He started playing baseball competitively before getting into basketball at age 13 (his name is inspired by the word for “baseball base” in Japanese). Rui credits much of his success with having the opportunity to pursue multiple passions.

“I want kids to keep trying new things, whether basketball, sports or something different,” explains Rui. “In this day and age, you can see the world through things like YouTube. Kids should find something they really love.”

Rui is already establishing himself as a role model, and he knows that good stats on the court aren’t the only way to gather people around the game. “What makes basketball so special is how it carries many cultures,” says Rui. “Fashion and music are also part of basketball’s DNA. If people are able to find sport through culture, that’s amazing, too. All of these things bring us together to enjoy the game and support each other.”

Learn more about UNITE here and look forward to more stories in the coming months.