The second season of the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) is already rapidly rushing towards its final phases of ultimately crowning a new champion this year. Since its initial debut in August 2016, scores of basketball-thirsty crowds have received Vietnam’s first professional league with welcoming approval.

Amidst the over 440k followers on the official VBA Facebook page, the 17k subscribers on their YouTube channel, and the speedy, sold-out tickets for a majority of games, there are still more fans of Vietnam’s fastest growing sport to be converted.

But why exactly has the VBA become the most popular and favorite show of the Vietnamese basketball community? What makes attending one of these games such a hot ticket?

PHOTO CREDIT: SAIGON HEAT

Throwback to the early 2000’s, when basketball was just really beginning to surface in Vietnam and was believed to be the most effective way of helping kids grow taller. There was only a very small contingent of skilled players who dreamt of a stage where they could compete and perform before a huge, raucous crowd, just like a real super star.

Just like an NBA legend.

Some local leagues had been organized with little to no tickets being sold. There were no news updates, nor no self-glorifying postgame stat sheets, yet, there was still enough attraction for ballers to come out and cheer for their favorite players. It wasn’t until the presence of the Saigon Heat, and their participation in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), that there was a sense of relief, much like a calming storm touching down upon a barren desert stricken with drought.

PHOTO CREDIT: SAIGON HEAT

But, since then, we’ve come to expect more.

To many, the ABL is still an over-sized sweatshirt that Vietnamese local players are told they’ll grow into, as the majority of their time is spent warming a bench that is shared with towels dampened by the sweat of more athletic and skilled import players.

Of course, this just wouldn’t do for audiences that tuned into games, as they wanted to catch glimpses of young locals displaying what they had on the hardwood. Youngsters that would not only become the next generation of Vietnamese ballers, but also ambassadors that would help usher in the sport towards a larger reach.

It wasn’t until the launch of the VBA, that the Vietnamese community finally got what they wished for. Finally, a professional basketball league in Vietnam that could showcase how far basketball had really come, while also providing a platform for local talents to achieve what was thought to be just a myth of becoming a real star on the court.

PHOTO CREDIT: CAN THO CATFISH

To us, the VBA is unlike any traditional national league where results are the pinnacle of everyone’s matters. There’s more to that.

The allures of sexy and energetic cheerleaders, valuable giveaways, on-court mini games, and after game interactions with players paint an entirely new picture for Vietnamese basketball. From non-fans to die-hards, a VBA game not only offers a place to watch our favorite teams play, but it also serves as a great choice to sit back and enjoy a show during our spare time.

If all the crazy, breathtaking battles don’t tickle your fancy, off-court activities are also a highlighting factor and give another reason to support the VBA. School visits, fan meet-and-greets and charity trips aren’t just for promoting the best interests of the teams, but they carry on a larger mission of bringing basketball to the entire community. Spreading the passion and spirit of basketball is especially valuable to the young generation, as they’ll be the ones expected to bring Vietnamese basketball to an even higher level in the future.

PHOTO CREDIT: HANOI BUFFALOES

The 2017 journey is nearing its finale, and it couldn’t have been a better match-up. A series featuring the Thang Long Warrios and Can Tho Catfish pitted against each other in a five game series. It’s just about got the entire community in uproar and is being widely considered as the most exciting draw possible, given both teams didn’t make an appearance last season.

Regardless of which team is ultimately dubbed champions is almost beside the point in Vietnam, so long as the beloved players put on a great show and leave it all on the court. That’s really all the ballers really want to see after all.

Vietnam’s national league has absolutely created a craze among a developing basketball community. We can surely expect to see even more investors, and along with that, new and more teams to a league-wide party that has already begun expanding with the debut of the Thang Long Warriors this year. Vietnam still has a long way to go, and the VBA sure has quite a reputation to live up to, but for now, we’ll just live in the moment and anxiously anticipate the crowning of a new champion.