By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Weights, cardio, and Zumba. It’s an unusual regimen for an individual looking for a shot in the NBA.
“It helps with my balance and rhythm,” Osamu Abe explained of the dancing, aerobic exercise. Of course, Osamu Abe is not your typical basketball player. Known as “Dinosaur Samu,” the 6’7” power forward and former Japan League basketball player is 42 years old. Battling against the odds, Abe’s chances of playing in the NBA are slim. Yet, he remains unyielding of his goal.
Abe came to Seattle after finding athletic trainers who would help him get in top shape. While he no longer trains with them, he still works out regularly and feels that his body is in better shape than when he was younger.
Abe played college basketball in Japan and went on to play for its national team. He played professionally in Japan, and against NBA players, including Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan, in exhibition games.
After 11 seasons of playing professionally in Japan, Abe sought a bigger challenge — the NBA.
“I felt like I accomplished everything as a player,” said Abe of his decision to leave Japan. Abe played for a minor league basketball team in New Hampshire in 1999. But he did not receive a call from the NBA. He then went to Los Angeles in 2004, as he was a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Phil Jackson. Although he was unsuccessful in his bid to latch on with an NBA team, it did not deter him.
But physical issues set back his NBA dream. Abe had knee injuries common to many basketball players, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus injury. The bigger physical issue was a benign brain tumor, which needed removal. He recalls not being able to smell and taste — symptoms related to the brain tumor. Abe had successful brain surgery in Japan. He attributes his recovery from the surgery to Kyoko Kazuse, a noted Japanese healer.
It was Kazuse who inspired Abe to get involved in an anti-bullying campaign for kids. Abe learned that Kazuse’s son was badly beaten due to bullying, which eventually resulted in his death.
Now, Abe is determined to “eradicate” bullying. He is involved with the “Glad to Help Campaign Association,” a nonprofit group that combats bullying. He hopes to spread the message of “playing your best, being caring and empathetic to others, and being thankful and appreciative.”
Abe has had tryouts with three teams in the NBDL, the minor league of the NBA, but was not invited to play for any of the teams. He has not considered playing in other leagues internationally — he is focused on his goal of playing in the NBA.
There are a handful of players in the history of the NBA who’ve played past 40 years old. Most had long careers in the league prior to their 40th birthday. Currently, the oldest player in the NBA is Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash, who is 39 years old.
Abe looks much younger than his age. He sports a spiked, dyed Mohawk, which he was told would help him stand out and be memorable to people. He continues to work out six days a week, including Zumba exercises, in preparation for his shot at the NBA. He plays pick-up basketball games with former college players and will attempt to play in a summer league this year with professional and college basketball players, run by current NBA professional basketball player Jamal Crawford.
While he continues to pursue his dreams, Abe coaches youth basketball at the Boys & Girls Club in Rainier Vista. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.