|Founded||April 1, 2015|
|Confederation||FIBA Asia (Asia)|
|Number of teams||48|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Current champions||B1: Alvark Tokyo (2nd title)|
B2: Shinshu Brave Warriors (1st title)
B3: Tokyo Excellence (1st title)
|Most championships||B1: Alvark Tokyo (2 titles)|
B2: Nishinomiya Storks (1 title)
B3: Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka (1 title)
|2018–19 B.League season|
The B.League is a professional men's basketball league that began in Japan in September 2016. 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.
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. 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.
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; the merger of the two competing leagues into the B.League was announced in June 2015 and the international suspension was lifted by FIBA in August. Telecommunications company Softbank were named as the league's top sponsor for the inaugural season in March 2016.
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, and four-time bj-league champions Ryukyu Golden Kings, who won the 2015–16 bj-league championship, at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on 22 September 2016. A full round of games involving all other teams commenced on September 24.
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.
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.
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.
Promotion and relegation
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.
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; the allocation of the 45 teams into three divisions was announced in two phases in July and August 2015. 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.
First division (18 teams)
Second division (18 teams)
Third division (12 teams)
|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|
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. 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.
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