In a society where taking selfies is about as common-place as finding chopsticks in a noodle-house, you’d be hard-fought to find anyone without a phone and a social media account linked with it.
Sure, news of President Barack Obama visiting can draw the attention of even the slightest connoisseurs of politics , trying to get a snapshot of one of the most powerful men in the world, but so too can ambassadors of other varieties.
No, I’m not talking about a global icon whose very name can draw oooooh’s and ahhhhh’s. Rather, I’m speaking of David “Viet” Arnold; the unofficial ambassador of basketball in Vietnam.
Have you ever been to a Saigon Heat game? Chances are, probably unlikely. Basketball is not the adopted son of the general population of Vietnam; that belongs to football. However, there are strides currently being made to at least get it into the same conversation.
With the introduction of Vietnam’s first official professional basketball league, the VBA (Vietnam Basketball Association), it’s desperate for a face; an identifiable figure that can push the sport’s popularity to the next level. Enter: David Arnold.
To those who are unfamiliar with the name, Arnold has taken on the moniker of “Viet Arnold.” What better way to be representative of a nation’s basketball association than to inscribe “Viet” next to “Arnold,” David’s surname.
Go to a Saigon Heat game; his name resonates throughout the crowd, many of whom are there simply looking for some sort of activity to do on a late Saturday afternoon.
The people of Vietnam take great pride at the very mention of anyone or anything associated with their homeland. Some may find it difficult to relate to or get behind a foreigner. David Arnold, however, is a Viet Kieu —a person of Vietnamese descent, born abroad— which makes it easier for casual fans to identify with.
If you watch him play on the court, his game is far more recognizable as opposed to his competition, but that’s okay; he has a lot more experience playing professionally than most, if not, all other players in the league.
Arnold has been in Vietnam for a few years now, playing professionally for the Saigon Heat in the ABL (Asean Basketball League), suiting up against teams from countries such as Thailand and Singapore. His game is a lot more refined than just about every other player in the VBA.
Crossing-over the competition, Arnold draws a plethora of defenders as he makes his way to the basket, either hanging about in the air like a loose feather for a potential 3-point play, or finding an open teammate standing in a barren vastness of real-estate as the sea departs from the attention that Viet garners.
David doesn’t only receive a large amount of attention on the court though.
Off the court, Arnold is also the most recognizable player. Look past his face being plastered on a Saigon Heat game ticket, or a banner for the VBA; Viet is also the source of many social media posts by fans of the sport in Vietnam.
If you were to search hashtags associated with the sport on social media outlets like Instagram or Facebook, such as “#vba,” “#saigonheat,” or “#abl,” you’ll find pictures of him alongside many members of Vietnam’s younger generation in conjunction with “#idol,” “#myfavoriteplayer,” and even “#crush.”
After a game, whether it be a Saigon Heat home game or a Can Tho Catfish home game, fans gravitate towards him as if he were a magnet holding up your monthly utilities bill on your refrigerator.
Being only a few games into the VBA season, there are still many opportunities to catch a glimpse of this modern day wizard. Allow David “Viet” Arnold to impress you with his craftiness with a basketball, and with a fan-held smartphone in front of his face.
Basketball is developing and growing in Vietnam. If one day we do see a Vietnamese-background player in the NBA with the likes of the Stephen Curry’s and Lebron James’ of the world, we can look back to the first unofficial ambassador of basketball in Vietnam.