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Vietnam Is Getting a Pro Basketball League

For Vietnamese hoopsters, “a league of their own” will soon be more than just a movie starring Tom Hanks and Madonna.

Sports giant XLE, which owns and operates the Saigon Heat, is putting the final touches on its plan to launch a domestic pro basketball league called the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA). The league, which would be comprised of teams from all over Vietnam, could be a reality as early as August.

On the sidelines of the Saigon Heat's season-end gala, Saigon Heat general manager Connor Nguyen confirmed that ownership groups are in place in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City (with two possible clubs) and Can Tho. Another franchise is being sought to round out the new league with six teams. The announcement of the sixth team's location is expected in the coming months, but for now the league is keeping its options open.

“It's about being really choosy to get the right owners,” Nguyen said.

Local TV deals are also being finalized, with different regional stations sharing content and giving the sport wider exposure in a country where soccer still steals the headlines.

In the meantime, coaching staff for the forthcoming league will use Vietnam's national basketball club championships, scheduled for June, to recruit local talent.

“All [the new team] head coaches will come to Vietnam to scout players,” Nguyen said.

He also mentioned the league's discussion on how many foreign players each team can carry. An exposure camp for American players of Vietnamese descent is being eyed for May in Los Angeles. Current Heat players like David Arnold and Stefan Nguyen, both overseas Vietnamese, are also likely candidates to take on playing roles in the new league.

XLE, which also runs the Vietnam University Games, will be partnering with Vietnam's national basketball federation with the aim of making the nation a regional power in the sport.

“The company is very good at developing the entertainment side,” said Heat and men's national team head coach Tony Garbelotto. “It's an incredible opportunity to develop the next stage of basketball in this country.”

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