Basketball in Vietnam - Saigon Heat

Submitted by tomo on March 16, 2012 - 3:46am

Last night I went to my first Saigon Heat game (thanks Skunkworks!) against the Philippines Patriots (the Philippines actually have two teams in the ASEAN Basketball League). Despite being up by six in the first half, the Patriots swiftly brought nearly 20 points of defeat to Saigon, who seemed to make mistake after mistake. The Heat are Vietnam's only basketball team, have only been around since late last year, and have been trying to promote this rather unknown sport with lots of promotional tickets. There was a decent turnout that night and it really was a fun night out, despite our loss.

Saigon have two Americans on the team (including an ex-Laker, I hear) who tower over the rest of the players, as well as two Filipinos. The Philippines, with much stronger American influence, are relatively big fans of basketball whereas in Vietnam it's really all about soccer (bong da, da banh, football, whatever). But there are small numbers of Vietnamese who enjoy shooting hoops. (A few of us play irregularly on Sunday afternoons if anybody reading would like to join. Preferably, you are not too good.)

Despite regular (English language) TV programming support from the league, I think it will still take some effort for b-ball to take off in Vietnam, and Asia in general -- really, most countries outside of the U.S, although it's certainly gotten a lot more popular around the world. At the moment, it feels more like an expensive hobby for some Asians with a lot of money and a love for sport, but not enough to buy an NBA team proper. It will be a decade before Vietnamese kids who grow up watching basketball will be ready, and tall enough, to play for the Heat. Perhaps the owners of the Heat should invest in battling malnutrition among Vietnamese children - team up with Vinamilk!

Home games are at the Tan Binh Stadium. Tickets are as low as 40k and go up to 500k. Try catching an NBA game for $2 back in the states! It makes for a decent date if you're looking for date ideas. Tickets can be purchased at the stadium (18 Xuan Hong), as well as various Coffee Bean locations around town. See you there this Saturday as the Heat play the Indonesia Warriors (thanks Topica!).

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