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Behind the Lights – Tana Wizard

Photography, fashion, streetball. The life of a creative from the Rising Sun

The eye, the wrist, the fingertips move towards the Far East, towards the Rising Sun. In the metropolis where neon lights and cherry trees, centuries-old traditions and hypermodernism merge, there are a series of constantly evolving basketball enclaves.

They are the communities of streetball, of basketball that goes beyond the flavor of the asphalt to become national culture, to marry the fashion world. They are the communities of Tana Wizard: an inspired mind capable of intertwining these parallel tracks, entrusting the Game with its research and its daily commitment.

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“I first started playing basketball for fun when I was in elementary school. I wasn’t really into video games, so I used to play various sports outdoors, and basketball was one of them. The more I played, the more hooked I got, but there wasn’t a basketball hoop near my house; so I had to make my own. Re-shaped metal hangers into a circular shape, bunched several of them together, attached it to a wooden board, and then hung it off a telephone pole. My house was on a hill, so it was difficult to practice dribbling in the street. If I fumbled the ball, I had to sprint down the hill to chase it; which actually forced me to get better dribbling. After graduating high school I entered an art school. I didn’t play for the school team, but outside of school I continued to play in 3-on-3 tournaments with my friends. That’s where I met FAR EAST BALLERS, the first Japanese streetball crew, and they invited me to tryout for their team. That’s where I was introduced to streetball, and the beginning of my addiction to this game. Around that same time I first learned of AND 1 MIXTAPE. I started to always keep a ball around with me, even at school. I wanted to spread streetball around Japan, so I also started FREESTYLE dribbling and began performing at big events as well as on TV. My name ‘Wizard’ was given by streetball MC legend, DUKE TANGO, during the multiple AND 1 Japan Games that I played in. Unfortunately, I started suffering a chronic disease and in order to spread the streetball culture even more I started SOMECITY in 2007 with my friends and ballaholic in 2012. By 2013, my chronic disease had gotten worse to the point where I couldn’t play anymore, so that’s when I directed my focus to photography”

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The ideals and cornerstones underlying these various projects are portrayed in Tana’s photographs. Like SOMECITY, a transversal confederation of street basketball, which involves and unites all the major Japanese prefectures.

“Japanese streetball did not have an established culture; a big reason for that was because Japan didn’t have an environment for people to play. Parks with basketball hoops were scarce, and most parks wouldn’t even allow kids to play around with a ball. When we started organizing events we had a difficult time getting approval to set up our hoops. So naturally we started to look for places that would allow us to ball, hoop or no hoop, and we would lay our own court. As we went through this, we came up with our style of playing wherever we could; ultimately leading to us to laying a court inside a night club for SOMECITY. After starting SOMECITY, we realized that it wasn’t enough for us to travel around different cities; we needed local people living in those cities to also organize and spread the event. Currently we have over 30 cities running the event, organized by locals, and as a result we have been able to meet many ‘basketball-crazies’ over the years. Internationally we’ve held the event in China, and we’ve also held an international event in Japan called ULTRABALL, where we invited teams from around the world to play games in the middle of Shibuya”

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The ballaholic brand lands powerfully not only in the Far East, but also in the Old Continent and beyond the Pacific, in the American cradle of James Naismith. The recent collaborations with ASICS and Kevin Couliau demonstrate this, together with the countless certificates of esteem and the increasing collective interest for a brand that represents much more than just aesthetics.

“Pre-streetball, I never imagined myself wearing baggy shorts that hung below my knees or oversize shirts for playing basketball. This is because Japan has a ‘school-team’ culture, where everyone typically wears similar clothes, and that was all I knew. So once I discovered streetball, I discovered new styles; hooping in the same shorts you walk around with, everybody at the courts having their own style, keeping your uniform on after games, wearing 2 pairs of short on top of each other, cutting the sleeves of T-shirts, wearing that cut portion of the T sleeve on your head. Even saw someone triple layering socks in NY. Also, this was the first time I learned about folding shorts at the waist. Back then, most sports shops didn’t sell basketball shorts that had pockets, because there was a hard line between sports and daily life. I was drawn to the streetball style of merging the two worlds. So our concept at ballaholic is clothes that you can wear for daily life as well as hooping, which is why our shorts have pockets. A big turning point for me was when I was diagnosed with my chronic disease, and that is when I transferred all of my energy and passion that I had for playing basketball, to ballaholic. The more time I put in for creating, the better my work got, the more people enjoyed the clothes, which kept me motivated to the point where I didn’t have time to stop. I also learned about photography during that process, and I think it was fortunate that I learned how to use a camera; I found a new medium to express my thoughts and creativity”

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A community with a double soul, made of sweat and playground, of urban contexts and creativity. A community that prefers terms such as ideology and diffusion to profit and capitalism.

“SOMECITY is an event to spread streetball, and to build that streetball culture within each city. ballaholic acts as sponsors for these events by preparing the jerseys. ballaholic is a brand and an ideology. We want people of all ages, gender, ethnicity to enjoy playing basketball. SOMECITY is an event that embraces that ideology. When we ask ourselves “what is streetball?” our answer is “streetball is the ultimate level of play”; “Play” is the state of mind where you are completely immersed into what you are doing. You can’t see what’s going around you. And not because of external motives, simply because you enjoy it. We want everyone who likes the game of basketball, whether they currently play or not, to incorporate basketball into their daily lives. Now we’ve finally settled down from the ASICS collab, so now we’re directing our focus on ballaholic TOKYO’s (our shop) 4 year anniversary as well as a collaboration project with Kevin Couliau and Asphalt Chronicles. We are also in the testing phase of starting a service of building basketball courts with ballaholic designs for private homes; we are planning to launch some time this year. Due to COVID, events are either being cancelled or limited (no audiences), parks are being shut down, and it’s pretty boring now; but we’re making the best of the situation and doing things that we’re only able to do now! We want to continue doing things that excite us, including spreading globally”

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