This may be the world's second largest city, but there are some things you can't find here. Like size 13 basketball shoes.
Julius Erving, the retired NBA superstar, was commissioned by theJapan
notebookleague to conduct clinics for youngsters and coaches here this week as part of the festivities surrounding the Utah Jazz-Phoenix Suns games this weekend. Erving forgot to pack his basketball shoes, so he called the Converse company to see about getting a pair.
"They had shoes, lots of shoes," said NBA vice president Dave Checketts. "But nothing in a size 13. Not in this country."
For the kids clinic on Thursday, Erving had to wear his tennis shoes. By Friday, Converse had rounded up a pair of size 13s.
Slightly more than 200 members of the media have been accredited for the Friday and Saturday games (Saturday and Sunday in Tokyo). That includes about 40 journalists from the U.S. and 160 from Japan.
Sports Illustrated is staffing the games, as is Stars & Stripes.
Friday night's Jazz-Suns game will be seen on America TV on cable station TNT. The game will be the second part of the station's season-opener doubleheader. The first game will be the Philadelphia 76ers-Chicago Bulls.
Ron Thulin and Hubie Brown will handle the TNT broadcasting.
Friday's game will also be broadcast on live Japanese television.
Both the Friday and Saturday games will be televised live in Utah - Friday on TNT and KSTU Channel 13, and Saturday on the Prime Sports Network.
The Jazz return from Japan to open the American portion of their season against San Antonio Thursday in the Salt Palace. The Suns open in Phoenix Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.
The Suns were originally supposed to play the Detroit Pistons. But General Manager Jerry Colangelo balked and the schedule was changed. "We're not going to Japan and coming home and playing Detroit," he told the NBA.
When the NBA first came up with this idea of opening the season with two games in Tokyo, it was decided that teams near the West Coast would be better suited to make the long trip over the Pacific.
"So they picked us and Phoenix," said Jazz owner Larry Miller, "and then we foul it up by playing on the East Coast in the exhibition season, and flying over here from New York."
At Thursday's press conference, the Jazz's Karl Malone was asked by a Japanese reporter what he wanted to improve on this season.
"I want to become a great defensive player," said the Mailman. "I don't care how many points I score. I hope I don't score 30 a game this year. That means somebody else is scoring, and we're winning more ball games.
"Besides, (Coach) Jerry (Sloan) wants me to say I'll work on my defense."
Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, on what a difference a decade can make: "When I was with the Kansas City Kings in 1981 you couldn't buy a Kings t-shirt in Kansas City. Now you can buy a Phoenix Suns t-shirt all over the world."
NBA basketball isn't all the Japanese crowd will be exposed to Friday and Saturday. Other imports from America that will be on display will be The Famous Chicken, the Bud Light Dare Devils (a trampoline act), and the five-time national champion Memphis State cheerleaders.
Being on the road is something the Utah Jazz are getting used to. From Oct. 27, when the team left for an exhibition game against the Detroit Pistons in Toronto, until Nov. 21, when they play Orlando in the Salt Palace, they will have been on the road 20 of 26 days.
In that time frame, they will have played eight teams in eight cities in three foreign countries, logging nearly 30,000 miles in the air. They will also have played two games at home.