The B.League[2] is a professional men's basketball league that began in Japan in September 2016.[3][4] The league is operated by the Japan Professional Basketball League and was formed as a result of a merger between the National Basketball League that was operated by the FIBA-affiliated Japan Basketball Association and the independently operated bj league. The merger had been mandated by FIBA as a condition to Japan having its membership resumed following suspension in November 2014.[5]

Japanese B League logo.png
FoundedApril 1, 2015; 4 years ago (2015-04-01)[1]
First season2016–17
Country Japan
ConfederationFIBA Asia (Asia)
Number of teams48
Level on pyramid1
Current championsB1: Alvark Tokyo (2nd title)
B2: Shinshu Brave Warriors (1st title)
B3: Tokyo Excellence (1st title)
Most championshipsB1: Alvark Tokyo (2 titles)
B2: Nishinomiya Storks (1 title)
B3: Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka (1 title)
PresidentMasaaki Okawa [ja] (Chairman)[1]
TV partnersDAZN
2018–19 B.League season


The Japan Basketball Association was formed in 1930 and has operated Japan's top basketball leagues under various names since 1967. Throughout the history of the association, teams have been affiliated with large corporations and players have been employed by their respective owner company rather than competing as professional basketball players. In the early 1990s soccer in Japan moved away from a similar corporate structure and launched the J.League in 1993.[6] The JBA commenced investigating the professionalization of basketball in the same year, and in 1997 lifted the ban on professional players. Despite this, the structure of the Japan Super League remained amateur in nature, with most teams remaining under the control of a corporate sponsor/owner.

In 2005 a rival bj league was launched in competition with the Super League, based on an American franchise system of professional teams. In response, the JBA re-launched the Super League as the Japan Basketball League in 2007, but there was still a mixture of professional and corporate teams in the competition. The JBL was again rebranded as the National Basketball League in 2013. Since the establishment of the bj league in 2005, both competitions rapidly expanded the number of teams, with 45 teams participating between the two competitions in 2015.[7]

FIBA, the international governing body for basketball, grew concerned with the division and disorganization of the sport within the country. After the JBA failed to comply with deadlines to commence reorganizing the domestic leagues, FIBA suspended Japan from international competitions in November 2014. A task force to investigate the reformation of the domestic leagues was formed and Saburō Kawabuchi was appointed co-chairman. In May 2015, upon FIBA's recommendation, Kawabuchi was appointed as president of the JBA.[8] The merger of the two competing leagues into the B.League was announced in June 2015[9] and the international suspension was lifted by FIBA in August.[10] Telecommunications company Softbank were named as the league's top sponsor for the inaugural season in March 2016.[11]

The 2016–17 season commenced with an inaugural match between four-time JBL/NBL champions Alvark Tokyo, who finished on top of the NBL ladder in 2015–16,[12] and four-time bj-league champions Ryukyu Golden Kings, who won the 2015–16 bj-league championship,[13] at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on 22 September 2016.[4] A full round of games involving all other teams commenced on September 24.[14][15]

Season formatEdit

The league consists of three divisions; the first two divisions have 18 teams each with a system of promotion and relegation between the first and second division. Each of the first two divisions is further divided into three conferences. The third division has nine teams made up of de facto semi-professional teams.[16]

First DivisionEdit

In the first division, each team plays a 60-game schedule that consists of 36 games against teams within their own conference (8 games against three teams and 6 games against the remaining two teams) and 24 games against teams in the other conferences (2 games against each team). The top two teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs, along with the two teams that finish with the best record but do not finish in the top two of their conference. The quarter-final and semi-final rounds of the playoffs will consist of two games played at the home court of the team that finished with the higher winning percentage during the season. If the two teams win one game each, third match will be played on the other day. The championship final will be a single match played at a neutral venue.[17]

Second DivisionEdit

In the second division, the regular season will take the same 60-game schedule as the first division, with 36 intra-conference and 24 inter-conference games. The winner of each conference plus the team with the best winning percentage from the remaining 15 teams will qualify for the playoffs. The semi-finals will take the same two-game format (with 10-minute tie-breaker) as the first division and be played at the home venue of the higher-ranked team. The grand final and playoff for third place will be a single match played at a neutral venue.[17]

Promotion and relegationEdit

The four first division teams with the worst regular-season records will contest a tournament to avoid relegation to the second division. The first round will be a two-game series played at the home venue of the better ranked team, with a 10-minute tie breaker match if required. The two losing teams from this first round will be automatically relegated to the second division and replaced by the winner and runner-up of the second division playoffs. The two first-division teams that win the first round of relegation matches will meet in a single match at a neutral venue, with the winner remaining in the first division. The loser of the final match will contest a relegation match at a neutral venue against the second division's third placed team. However, this basic system is subject to change in circumstances where one of the second division teams that qualifies for promotion to the first division does not hold a full first division license with the league.[17]

Current clubsEdit

In the 2014–15 season, there were 12 teams in the NBL, 10 teams in the National Basketball Development League (NBDL, the NBL's second division league) and 24 teams in the bj-league. All 46 teams sought entrance to the B.League's inaugural 2016–17 season, along with the Wakayama Trians, who withdrew from the NBL in January 2015 due to financial difficulty. Ultimately, all clubs were accepted into the league except for the Trians and the Hiroshima Lightning, who were in their first season as a bj-league expansion club.[18] The allocation of the 45 teams into three divisions was announced in two phases in July[3] and August 2015.[16] In April 2016 the league announced rules regarding official team names, shortened names and abbreviations to be used by the clubs. A list of names to be used by each club in the 2016–17 season was also published.[19]

First division (18 teams)Edit

Conference Team name City, Prefecture Home arena[20] 2015–16 League 2015–16 team name
East Akita Northern Happinets Akita, Akita CNA Arena Akita bj-league
Alvark Tokyo Fuchū, Tokyo Arena Tachikawa Tachihi, Komazawa Gymnasium NBL Toyota Alvark Tokyo
Chiba Jets Funabashi Funabashi, Chiba Funabashi Arena NBL Chiba Jets
Levanga Hokkaido Sapporo, Hokkaido Hokkai Kitayell NBL
Sun Rockers Shibuya Shibuya, Tokyo Aoyama Gakuin University Gymnasium NBL Hitachi SunRockers
Utsunomiya Brex Utsunomiya, Tochigi Brex Arena Utsunomiya NBL Link Tochigi Brex
Central Kawasaki Brave Thunders Kawasaki, Kanagawa Kawasaki Todoroki Arena NBL Toshiba Brave Thunders Kanagawa
Niigata Albirex BB Nagaoka, Niigata City Hall Plaza Aore Nagaoka bj-league
San-en NeoPhoenix Toyohashi, Aichi Toyohashi City General Gymnasium bj-league Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix
SeaHorses Mikawa Kariya, Aichi Wing Arena Kariya NBL Aisin SeaHorses Mikawa
Toyama Grouses Toyama, Toyama Toyama City Gymnasium bj-league
Yokohama B-Corsairs Yokohama, Kanagawa Yokohama International Swimming Pool bj-league
West Kyoto Hannaryz Kyoto, Kyoto Hannaryz Arena bj-league
Nagoya Diamond Dolphins Nagoya, Aichi Dolphins Arena NBL Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins Nagoya
Osaka Evessa Osaka, Osaka Ookini Arena Maishima bj-league
Ryukyu Golden Kings Okinawa, Okinawa Okinawa City Gymnasium bj-league
Shiga Lakestars Ōtsu, Shiga Ukaruchan Arena bj-league
Shimane Susanoo Magic Matsue, Shimane Matsue City General Gymnasium bj-league

Second division (18 teams)Edit

Conference Team name City, Prefecture Home arena 2015–16 League 2015–16 team name
East Aomori Wat's Aomori, Aomori Maeda Arena bj-league
Fukushima Firebonds Kōriyama, Fukushima Koriyama General Gymnasium bj-league
Gunma Crane Thunders Maebashi, Gunma Yamato Citizens Gymnasium Maebashi bj-league
Ibaraki Robots Mito, Ibaraki Adastria Mito Arena NBL Cyberdyne Tsukuba Robots
Passlab Yamagata Wyverns Yamagata, Yamagata Yamagata Prefectural General Sports Park Gymnasium NBDL
Sendai 89ers Sendai, Miyagi Xebio Arena Sendai bj-league
Central Earth Friends Tokyo Z Ōta, Tokyo Ota City General Gymnasium NBDL
Koshigaya Alphas Koshigaya, Saitama Koshigaya Municipal General Gymnasium NBDL
Nishinomiya Storks Nishinomiya, Hyogo Nishinomiya City Central Gymnasium NBL
Shinshu Brave Warriors Chikuma, Nagano White Ring (arena) bj-league
Tokyo Excellence Itabashi, Tokyo Itabashi Azusawa Gymnasium NBDL
Toyotsu Fighting Eagles Nagoya Nagoya, Aichi Biwajima Sports Center NBDL Toyota Tsusho Fighting Eagles Nagoya
West Bambitious Nara Nara, Nara Naraden Arena bj-league
Ehime Orange Vikings Matsuyama, Ehime Matsuyama City General Community Center bj-league Oita Ehime HeatDevils
Hiroshima Dragonflies Hiroshima, Hiroshima Hiroshima Sun Plaza NBL
Kagawa Five Arrows Takamatsu, Kagawa Takamatsu City General Gymnasium bj-league Takamatsu Five Arrows
Kumamoto Volters Kumamoto, Kumamoto Kumamoto Prefectural Gymnasium NBL
Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka Fukuoka, Fukuoka Teriha Sekisui House Arena bj-league

Third division (12 teams)Edit

Team name City, Prefecture 2015–16 League
Aisin AW Areions Anjo Anjō, Aichi NBDL
Gifu Swoops Gifu, Gifu
Iwate Big Bulls Morioka, Iwate bj-league
Kagoshima Rebnise Kagoshima, Kagoshima NBDL
Kanazawa Samuraiz Kanazawa, Ishikawa bj-league
Saga Ballooners Saga, Saga
Saitama Broncos Tokorozawa, Saitama bj-league
Tokyo Cinq Rêves Chōfu, Tokyo bj-league
Tokyo Hachioji Bee Trains Hachioji, Tokyo NBDL
Toyoda Gosei Scorpions Kiyosu, Aichi NBDL
Tryhoop Okayama Okayama, Okayama
Veltex Shizuoka Shizuoka, Shizuoka


List of B.League referees

Team MapsEdit


Foreign playersEdit

Each club in the first and second divisions will be allowed up to three registered foreign players, excluding one foreign-born player who has become a naturalized Japanese citizen.[21] Two foreign players will be allowed on the court. Naturalized players can play as Japanese citizens and have no limitations. Each club will be allowed one naturalized player.

In line with Japan Basketball Association regulations, foreign citizens who were either born or raised in Japan and graduated from Japanese elementary and junior high school will not be treated as a foreign player for the purpose of these rules.[17]


  1. ^ a b "組織概要" [Organizational Outline] (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 19 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  2. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (15 September 2015). "New pro basketball league unveils name, logo". The Japan Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b "JPBLの「1部~3部階層分け発表記者会見」について" [Regarding the JPBL's "Division 1–3 Assignment Press Conference"] (in Japanese). Nishinomiya Storks. 30 July 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b "B.LEAGUE開幕日・対戦カード決定のお知らせ" [B.League Opening Day Matchup Decided] (in Japanese). 24 May 2016. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Japan suspended by FIBA". ESPN. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  6. ^ Anthony, Scott (18 July 2010). "How Japan created a successful league". When Saturday Comes. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  7. ^ Odeven, Kaz (3 October 2015). "Size of B. League will present challenges from the outset". Japan Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Kawabuchi becomes new JBA President". 18 May 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  9. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (19 June 2015). "FIBA on fast track to fully lift Japan Basketball Association ban in August". Japan Times. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  10. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (9 August 2015). "Kawabuchi welcomes end of Japan's international basketball ban". Japan Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  11. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (10 March 2016). "Softbank named top B. League partner". Japan Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  12. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (12 May 2016). "Alvark, Brex enter NBL playoffs as top teams". Japan Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  13. ^ Odeven, Ed (15 May 2016). "Golden Kings bring curtain down on bj-league with fourth title". Japan Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  14. ^ Nagatsuka, Kaz (24 May 2016). "Kings, Alvark to clash in B. League opener". Japan Times. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  15. ^ "B.LEAGUE全36クラブの開幕日・開幕対戦カード2016–17シーズンスケジュール決定のお知らせ" [Announcement that opening day matches for all 36 B.League teams and the 2016–17 season schedule have been decided] (in Japanese). 10 June 2016. Archived from the original on 13 June 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  16. ^ a b Nagatsuka, Kaz (29 August 2015). "JPBL finalizes division placements for 2016–17". The Japan Times. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  17. ^ a b c d "Rules". Archived from the original on 29 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  18. ^ "広島ライトニング、バスケの新リーグ参入への道、開かれず" [Road to new league doesn't open for Hiroshima Lightning]. Hiroshima Sport (in Japanese). 16 July 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Bクラブのチーム名・呼称・略称決定" [Team names, short names and abbreviations for B.League clubs decided]. 6 April 2016. Archived from the original on 19 May 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  20. ^ "B.LEAGUE全36クラブのホームアリーナ発表" [Home arenas of all 36 B.League clubs] (in Japanese). 11 May 2016. Archived from the original on 7 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  21. ^ B.League (20 June 2018). "B.LEAGUE 2018-19 SEASON 競技レギュレーション" (PDF). Retrieved 24 June 2018.

External linksEdit