Tiafoe Meets Curry At NBA Japan Games

De Minaur and Osaka were also in attendance
October 01, 2022
Stephen Curry and Frances Tiafoe meet at the the NBA Japan Games.
Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry and Frances Tiafoe meet at the the NBA Japan Games. By ATP Staff

Tennis isn’t the only sporting attraction around Tokyo this weekend. While the 2022 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships are underway with qualifying action, the NBA Japan Games are also taking place nearby in Japan.

The Golden State Warriors — the defending NBA champions — and the Washington Wizards are competing in two preseason games at the Saitama Super Arena, with the first matchup staged on Friday night in front of over 20,000 fans.

Frances Tiafoe, Naomi Osaka and Alex de Minaur were among those in attendance, with Tiafoe getting a chance to meet some of the players before the game.

The American spoke with Stephen Curry and demonstrated the reigning NBA Finals MVP’s trademark ‘Night, Night’ celebration, which he called “one of the coldest cellys I’ve seen” in a Twitter post.

“I got to meet Steph Curry last night, which was great,” Tiafoe said. “He's one of my idols. Him acknowledging what he saw and saying he's proud of me for the US Open was pretty special. You're never going to forget things like that.”

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Tiafoe, who supports the Wizards as his local team, was even on the court for warm-ups, dropping assists during shooting practice.

“It was really cool, especially being from D.C. and the Washington Wizards playing… and them showing love throughout the game” he added. “Just messing around with the guys, throwing some dimes. It's just fun being around them. I think it's good for them, too. A little different, a breath of fresh air.”

Tiafoe also plans to attend the second exhibition game between the two teams on Sunday. The support goes both ways, as Wizards star Bradley Beal was seen in his player box during his run to the US Open semi-finals.

Tiafoe has also been using basketball for cross-training, working out with the Wizards staff for a fun way to work on his fitness and recently visiting the team’s practice facility during the NBA’s preseason.

At Friday’s game, Tiafoe also met Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. He was even shown on the arena’s big screen, receiving a rousing reception.

The American has also been a special guest at a New York Mets game and a Maryland football game since his career-best run to the US Open semi-finals — a result he followed with a title-clinching performance for Team World at Laver Cup.

A well-established fan favourite on the ATP Tour, Tiafoe’s fame is now crossing over into the general population.

“Since the Open, I think you could say I feel like a star, period,” he said, looking back on what he called “a crazy month and change”.

“It's definitely different being home, and seeing a bunch of people reacting, and New York, and obviously yesterday,” he added. “But that's where you want to be. That's why you work hard and just try to inspire a lot of people. But I've still got a lot more to give in this game so I'm going to keep going.”

Tiafoe is seeded fourth in the Tokyo singles draw, and will face Japanese wild card Yasutaka Uchiyama on the opening round. The American will also compete with De Minaur in the doubles competition.

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