Last season, Rui Hachimura helped save the Lakers.
Now the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward is hoping to help save the Earth — even though he's in concussion protocol with the Lakers — by dunking an approaching meteorite into oblivion.
Or something like that. The details of Hachimura's heroic endeavor will be revealed Saturday, when a cartoon version of the Japanese basketball star appears on the anime series "Crayon Shin-chan" in an episode with a title that translates to "The Adventures of Buri Buri Zaemon: Space Dunk Edition."
Hachimura provides his own voice for his character on the popular Japanese series, which debuted in 1992 and has aired more than 1,000 episodes.
"My family and I are big fans of Crayon Shin-chan," Hachimura said in a statement posted in Japanese on the TV Asahi website. “It was really fun."
The official X (formerly Twitter) account for "Crayon Shin-chan" posted some still images from the episode, featuring the cartoon version of Hachimura with the characters Shinnosuke (a mischievous 5-year-old whose nickname is Shin-chan) and Buri Buri Zaemon (a talking pig who is apparently a figment of Shin-chan's imagination).
The show's account also posted videos of the real-life 25-year-old Hachimura interacting with a human in a Shin-chan costume and recording his lines in the studio.
Hachimura was born in Toyama, Japan, and attended Meisei High in Sendai, Japan. He played three years at Gonzaga before being selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2019 draft.
On Jan. 23, the struggling Lakers acquired Hachimura from the Wizards for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round draft picks. It wasn't an instant fit, but Hachimura flourished late in the season and during a playoff run in which the seventh-seeded Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Finals. He was rewarded this summer with a three-year, $51-million contract.
Hachimura has missed the Lakers' past two games with an eye contusion — and on top of that, now he has this meteorite situation to deal with.
Hachimura's episode of "Crayon Shin-chan" is set in a city that resembles Los Angeles, where the animated version of the player has been practicing basketball for eight days straight without eating. So he joins Shin-chan and Buri Buri Zaemon for a hamburger feast, only to be interrupted by news of the Earth's imminent doom.
How will it all turn out? Fans in Japan can find out when the episode airs Saturday afternoon on TV Asahi, or when it streams the following week on the TVer service. Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement to broadcast or stream the episode in the U.S.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.