Rui Hachimura, 23, is an idol in his native Japan, a position he established during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he served as Japan’s flag bearer for the first time on the international stage. Today, the forward’s impact stretches beyond the Washington Wizards and athletics, touching sneakers, fashion, and culture throughout the world. The former, in particular, has become a focus point for Hachimura’s burgeoning interest in self-expression, as he debuted his first Air Jordan Retro partnership to significant praise earlier this year.
Rui feels like he’s come full circle with the footwear. Rui adored Michael Jordan’s game, competitive passion, and legacy as a child in Toyama, Japan. In the present day, the first Japanese-born player to be drafted into the NBA ranks is the face of his idol’s eponymous company.
We spoke with Rui shortly after his return to the hardwood to learn about his Olympic experience, the music he’s now listening to, and the story behind his AJ8.
During the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, you were honored as Japan’s flag bearer. How did you find the experience?
It was incredible and an honor to do so for my native nation. It’s difficult to put into words how I felt when I was there. Unfortunately, there were no fans present due to COVID, but being in that position, holding the flag, leading my squad and all the Olympians representing Japan in Tokyo was incredible.
You’ve already named Drake and Young Thug as some of your favorite artists. What are you currently listening to?
I’ve recently become obsessed with afrobeat. Artists like Burna Boy and Dave are currently on my radar. I still listen to Drake, but afrobeat makes me feel happy. I listen to afrobeats whether stepping out the door for pregame or simply chilling at home.
Off the court, you’re dressed in Louis Vuitton, Amiri, Dior, and your own Black Samurai line. Is fashion becoming more of a means of self-expression?
Without a doubt. Seeing Russell Westbrook and his style, especially when I was drafted into the NBA—he’s one of the finest guys in the game for fashion. Kyle Kuzma is a really unique player this year. It’s enjoyable and satisfying to put on a decent clothing. It’s all about self-assurance and ease.
What is your favorite aspect of being a member of Team Jordan Brand?
It’s a fantasy come true. I was a tremendous fan growing up, so it’s an incredible honor. I have my own Jordan shoe and clothing closet. The fashion is also intriguing; it’s more street-inspired, and I can wear these things to games.
You’ve indicated that much of the inspiration for your Jordan Brand Player Exclusives comes from your background and Japanese-Beninese ancestry. What are some of the colorways that have inspired you this season?
The ‘Black Samurai’ model, which features a black midsole with gold and red embellishments, was inspired by my Japanese heritage. Throughout the season, I’ll be wearing a variety of different hues, each reflecting a distinct side of my story.
How did you come up with your own Jordan 8 Retro colorway? What sparked the idea for the design?
It was done in collaboration with the Jordan Brand design team. The light brown suede lends it an aged appearance, while red elements indicate my Japanese heritage and a Black Samurai logo on the classic AJ8 chenille patch on the tongue. My name is Hachi, which means “8,” thus having my own is unique. Isn’t it a dream come true?