Yuta Watanabe has done everything he can to make a lasting impact in the NBA this season, and through hard work and perseverance, has continued to carve out a role with the Toronto Raptors.
Sometimes that effort doesn't get rewarded, however, and Watanabe became an international storyline after getting dunked on viciously by Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards on Feb. 19. Edwards elevated from the baseline and rocketed over Watanabe, who fell to the ground while fouling the 2020 first overall pick.
Watanabe spoke candidly about the dunk following the Raptors' loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
"When you're dunked on like that, you get laughed (at) and become famous in a bad way. But for me, I have no choice but to try to block it. I'd rather get dunked on than give up an easy two points by missing it," Watanabe said in Japanese, as translated by Twitter user @RaptorsInfoJPN.
"As it turned out, my foul made the 3-point play, so in that point, fouling is definitely out of the question. In a situation like that, most people avoid it these days for fear of it going viral on the Internet. But I think, if I do so, I shouldn't be here anymore and I shouldn't get any playing time. The only thing I'm regretting about that is giving up three points, so I don't mind that he dunked on me. If I'm in the same situation in the future, I'll jump to block every time.
"Even if I get dunked on 99 times out of 100, I'll always jump if there's a chance I can block one."
It's a perfect attitude from a player whose willingness to go the extra mile in some ways embodies the Raptors' tenacious, gritty identity. Watanabe never takes a play off and sometimes the result is sub-optimal, but he's not going to give up anytime soon.
For now, let's hope Watanabe continues to build some highlight-reel moments throughout his career, as it would be sorely unfair to only remember him as the man Anthony Edwards posterized.
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