We’re down to the final game in the 2017 VBA season, featuring the Thang Long Warriors and Cantho Catfish, with the finals tied at two games a-piece. Many precious moments have been captured, including the breath-taking fights everyone witnesses on the court, as well as those “behind the scenes” moments that may go uncovered.
One of the story-lines of the 2017 VBA season revolves around the energetic and precedence-setting Mrs. Tracy Thu Luong – the first woman to ever hold a sports team in Vietnam – who is the owner of the VBA’s newest team, the Thang Long Warriors.
Vietnamese players, and especially the fans of the VBA, should be more than familiar with the presence of Tracy Thu Luong, not only in media, but also sitting courtside at just about every Thang Long Warriors game, regardless of if it’s home or away.
Born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, she has been a huge supporter of the Saigon Heat in both the ABL and VBA. When presented with an offer to contribute a new team into the ranks of the league for the 2017 season, Tracy Thu Luong was more than happy to oblige.
“We have been a sponsor of the VBA for a year, starting back in 2016, so we were aware of the professionalism in the league’s management including: organization, the commissioner board, and the coaching staffs. The way the organization involves professional players, heritage players from basketball-developed countries such as the United States and those in Europe, and FIBA referees. There are no interferences between local players and imports, pushing the quality of the league while also improving the techniques and skills of locals. Hence, when I was presented with an opportunity to be the sixth team to join the VBA in 2017, I was immediately convinced.”
One of the interesting things about her larger involvement with the league was the choice in location as the Warriors’ home. Though the VBA already had two teams in Vietnam’s most populated city, the Ho Chi Minh City Wings and Saigon Heat, the decision to choose Hanoi was influenced by childhood memories.
“Why Hanoi? Personally, it could be fate. I was born in Ho Chi Minh City, but my father is from Hai Duong and my mother is from Hai Phong – two provinces very close to Hanoi. When I was just a young child, my father took us to Northern Vietnam to visit our grandparents every year, and that’s what started my connection to Hanoi. I was so excited to visit the Unclo Ho monument. I love the fish pond there and all the tall trees along the monument grounds; all those times eating ice cream along the Hoan Kiem lakeside. Those were very beautiful memories. And now, I have a chance to stick with Hanoi, undertaking the management of some Hanoi-based family businesses. The undying fire for basketball in Hanoi isn’t any less than in Saigon, even though we only had one team last season. Therefore, as an investor, Hanoi seems to be a place booming with potential for us to do something new, and the presence of the Thang Long Warriors could somehow, quench the thirst of the crowd here.”
Despite just joining the league for the very first time, Tracy Thu Luong has already shown her ambition and well-prepared steps into the competition. Ballers were strongly impressed by her ambitious statement during the 2017 VBA press conference when she stated, “the championship seems to be the target of everyone here, but since we are the rookie this season, I’m hereby aiming to be a representative in the finale.”
Admitting that was only a fun joke in the heat of the moment, the prediction actually came true. It’s not like the feat was simply a piece of cake, stricken only by luck, as the result was obviously predicted during one of the earliest stages of the current season.
“Since we had the chance to meet Coach Lee earlier than any other team, we discussed the plan thoroughly, and with the strategy at the time, I totally believed that we could create something big together. As an owner, I don’t interfere with any of the coaching duties and coach Lee’s professional skills. I save all the decisions for him, especially in picking the players and developing the game plans. I can tell that Coach Lee has already done a very good job based on the performance of the Thang Long Warriors team in the league up to now.”
Leading a sports team is no simple task. For a woman to lead a sports team in Vietnam, it’s absolutely a tough thing to carry and uphold, but for Tracy Thu Luong, there’s really no pressure at all since she lives with a strong passion for basketball.
It became just another normality for people to see her at every game, focusing, cheering, encouraging, and willing on her players. It proved that she was not just an honored owner.
“I always want to give the best support to our players, physically and mentally, so they can feel connected. That we are all a team. A family. That spirit is the most important thing since I can’t do anything alone. Fortunately, I have a strong team behind me for support in overcoming all the challenges. I believe that the team has all the best ingredients to be successful from the roster, to operations, and all the way to marketing and financing. We are also thankful for the support from VBA organizers. You can see that our team has gotten to the final stage on the efforts of many people.”
Reaching the target of getting to the finals this season is just the beginning for the Warriors’ development plan. Tracy explains that, “as a freshman of the league this year, we set two main targets. First of all, building and asserting impressions of the Thang Long Warriors for the entire audience, the fans, the basketball lovers in Vietnam. Secondly, we try to build a stronger Warriors community around the whole country, from Hanoi, to Da Nang, to Saigon, and even Can Tho. Since I believe the strength of our team comes from the ardors of all Warriors fans. For the long-term strategy, we also plan to set up the young generation of basketball like a junior team, co-working with some basketball academies throughout Vietnam’s big cities.”
Vietnam doesn’t seem to be the only country she is interested in. In response to the chances that we could see the Thang Long Warriors competing in international leagues just as the Saigon Heat do in the ABL and how the Hanoi Buffaloes did in last year’s TBSL, Tracy Thu Luong didn’t hesitate to articulate the goal of taking the team even higher.
“We accept all challenges, so playing in regional and international leagues is always among the priority objectives of the Thang Long Warriors. It is an opportunity to learn and gain experience from all sports on an international level.”
The Saigon Heat, a team which Tracy Thu Luong has come to be associated with, has been supported with Audi Vietnam’s – where she is in charge of public relations and marketing – years of sponsorship and she hopes that can bring forward a big change towards stepping into the ABL. The Warriors owner displays a huge expectation in an encouraging transformation.
“From what the Saigon Heat has announced so far, I can see that the new coach this year, Kyle Julius, is creating the biggest revolution ever [for Vietnam basketball]. He got a hold of all the best players, from locals to heritage players, the so-called ‘VBA All-stars,” as well as two impressive [world] imports. We have reason to believe that the Saigon Heat are going to bring some surprising and amazing things to all the deserving Vietnamese basketball fans, including myself and my family for many more years of support.”
This season’s trophy winners will be announced very soon, with the last hopes for both the Thang Long Warriors and Can Tho Catfish. Tracy was very honest in admitting the ambitions of taking home the championship trophy, even with the team’s very first participation in the league when asked about the opportunity that the Warriors have in their reach.
She also shared an even bigger goal to accomplish.
“I guess the six teams that joined the VBA all need the championship and the Thang Long Warriors are no exception. However, throughout the journey, we look forward to bringing basketball closer to the young generation of Vietnam. We have already committed the long-term strategy along with the VBA, and more development plans for the Vietnamese basketball community. Vietnam, as a country, has one of the youngest populations, with more than 60% in total. Basketball is growing as one of the most active and favorite sports so far. The birth of a variety of basketball competitions in Hanoi, Saigon, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Soc Trang, and Can Tho. From high school and amateur games, to the national and international stage, there is proof for basketball’s potential. Certainly, together with the Thang Long Warriors team, we wish and will try all we can to continue contributing more in developing Vietnamese basketball. That is my biggest vision after all.”
The Warriors have had a wonderful rookie season, stepping into the finale of the 2017 VBA season while growing their fan community day-by-day under the dedicated, yet trendy, leading style of this young and gorgeous woman. Regardless of if they ultimately fall short of being deemed champions of VBA’s second season, all of the hard-work won’t go unnoticed.
It’s also a good sign for Vietnamese basketball to have more brilliant visions and passionate investors like Tracy Thu Luong. We all wish that one day, the community of Vietnamese ballers can be as strong as the parties in the region.