As much as I sometimes wish I were young again, there’s no denying the fact that youth has its drawbacks. For example, just think of all the things someone under the age of 15 can’t do in Japan: they can’t enjoy a glass of elephant poop beer, vote for some naked, sword wielding guy standing in municipal elections, go to an Edo period erotic art show, or buy a carton of Marlboro and exquisite steak curry at the same place.

And if the muckety mucks in the Japan Basketball Association have their way, anyone under 15 may soon be prohibited from playing zone defense. However, the JBA would like to remind youths that it’s for their own good, and hurts the association more than it does them.

The origin for this ban come from last November when the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) suspended the JBA indefinitely. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are fast approaching and are being seen as a key opportunity to promote basketball in Japan. However, after repeated warnings to step up their game, the FIBA felt it was time to issue some tough love.

FIBA also assigned delegates to help with a task force aimed at creating reforms to Japanese basketball. One such reform involves uniting Japan’s two basketball leagues, the National Basketball League and unfortunately named BJ-League (Basketball Japan League). In addition, a more crucial reform involves strengthening Japanese players so they can perform at the international level.

To this end, at a task force meeting on 2 June, a proposal was made to ban younger players from using the zone defense. This means that rather than being assigned a specific zone of the court to defend, players will have to be assigned an offensive player to guard wherever they are.

▼ Left: Zone defense (parental discretion advised) / Right: Family-friendly man-to-man defense

Currently, about 90 percent of elementary school age teams exclusively use zone defense. Even in middle school basketball the zone defense is heavily used. Although there is some more man-to-man seen, it is still very little and as a result Japanese players tend to grow up having significant weaknesses in this area. Without any man-to-man skills, Japanese teams’ defenses would be more easily exploitable and have considerable trouble against strong three-point shooters.

So in the end the task force issued a statement saying Japan needs to seriously d up and that “it is crucial to prohibit zone defense” to do so. After that’s taken care of they can get to work on finally doing something about that BJ-League.

Source: FIBA (English), Yahoo! Japan News (Japanese)