Tam Dinh is the kind of player who can change games with one swipe of his tattooed arm from the three-point line or with one long, rangy stride up to the basket. He is, after all, the highest all-time scorer in the VBA.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt
And the thirty-two year old Vietnamese-American has been doing it since the inception of the VBA, the Vietnam Basketball Association. Back then, in 2016, he played for Can Tho Catfish, finishing the season with a 19.5 average. “Oh man, I still remember one particular play for the Can Tho Catfish – the greatest ever I was a part of on court. It was a playoff game. We were playing the Thang Long Warriors and it was back in 2019. DeAngelo Hamilton falls and loses the ball and it rolls to the top of the key. Me and a Thang Long Warriors player drive for it, and somehow I come up with it. I throw it out to Le Hieu Thanh – who’s wide open. But he hasn’t hit a three-pointer all game. And then, right on the buzzer, he nails it for three!” Tam Dinh remembers proudly.
That led to a stint with Saigon Heat in the ASEAN Basketball League. And now he plays for the Hanoi Buffaloes, when he’s not representing the National Team, as he is preparing to do in the SEA Games 2022 when we meet.
Tam Dinh has also just finished Stop 2 of the VBA’s 3 x 3 in Saigon as Grand Finals winner with the National Team. “This is the third time I’ve played for and represented the National Team,” Tam Dinh nods, “and it’s an amazing feeling representing the home country of my family.” But he had to face some of his teammates he plays with at the Buffaloes on his way to victory. “Playing against my brothers with the Hanoi Buffaloes is always a good time – we give it our all, we play like sworn enemies, and then after the game we’re right back to being brothers again,” he laughs.
For the Hanoi Buffaloes and the National Team, Tam Dinh plays in the number 23 shirt. It’s the same number Michael Jordan played in for most of his career. And LeBron James too. “Of course, I grew up watching Michael Jordan, my favorite NBA player,” Tam Dinh nods. “But that number is very special to me for other reasons too. When I lost my grandpa, 23 was popping up everywhere. He died on the 23rd January. My gate number when I went to see him for the last time was 23. Even my seat number was 23.” And so now, it’s a sign to Tam Dinh his grandpa is still watching over him and his career. “Every time I see the number I remember that,” he smiles.
Beyond the court, the life of a VBA basketball player is straightforward, Tam Dinh tells us. “We pretty much eat, sleep and dream basketball,” he nods, “and that’s it, in a nutshell.” He’s picked up endorsements with brands like Adidas along the way. “Of course, it’s stripes over checks every time!” he admits.
Big teams like the Lakers draw lots of celebrities to their games. If you could issue two VIP tickets to any celebrities in the world to come courtside at a Buffaloes Game, who would you give them to?
I would give my two tickets to Travis Scott and Barack Obama!
If you could create a Frankenstein’s monster using the parts of different legendary players, which parts of which players would you choose?
OK, it would have to be Micheal Jordan’s mentality. Then I’d add Steph Curry’s shooting prowess. Giannis Antetokounmpo, AKA the Greek Freak, for his sheer size. Then Kyrie Irving’s handles. And finally Shaq’s physicality.
If you could excel in another sport besides basketball, which would you choose? And which team would you want to join or win?
It has to be American football. And I would love to play for the New England Patriots!
What’s the connection between basketball and music?
Music and basketball share a rhythm. A beat. Especially when you dribble the ball. It’s kind of like dancing.
You can save one track ever made while all the others are destroyed. What track do you keep to listen to forever?
I’m choosing ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ by the Steve Miller Band or by Seal – the version that was on the soundtrack of my favorite basketball movie, Space Jam. It gets me into Jordan mode!
There have been lots of songs about basketball, from ‘Basketball’ by Kurtis Blow to Shaq’s ‘I Know I Got Skillz’. Which is your favorite song about the sport?
One of my favorite songs is ‘Amazing’ by Kayne West. It’s not specifically a basketball song, but it makes you feel like you’re the greatest and no one can take it from you: “I’m a monster, I’m a killer…”
What do you listen to before a game? And what do you listen to when you want to wind down after one?
The song I always listen to before a game is ‘Sicko Mode’ by Travis Scott. Then, after the game I’ll wind down to ‘SunFlower’ by Post Malone & Swae Lee.
What song would you play at your wedding?
The song I’d have played at my wedding would be ‘Tadow’ by Masego & FJK.
Which genre of music is underrated? And which is overrated?
Personally, I love music. Music of all types! So they are all on the same level, nothing is under- or overrated.
Now, pick ten tracks based on the theme: music to hype you up before a big game and tell us about your selection.
OK, first off is ‘Sicko Mode’ by Travis Scott. As I mentioned before, it’s my go-to before a game. Then another Travis Scott track, ‘Highest In The Room’. Now I’m doubly hyped. To solidify the vibe, Kendrick’s ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ so I can carry the feeling onto the court. Another track that hypes me up is Jack Harlow’s ‘What’s Poppin’”, and one that served me well growing up is Limp Bizkit’s ‘My Way’.
Then I’m choosing Pop Smoke’s ‘Got It On Me’ – it gets my blood going, man! Then we have Macklemore’s ‘Glorious’ which makes me thankful for everything. And then Thundercat’s ‘Funny Thing’ which is all vibe. Then we go back in time again. Linkin Park’s ‘Breaking The Habit’ is a song I grew up with and still love today. And finally, Kanye West’s ‘All Of The Lights’. A song to run out to, the lights of the stadium hitting you…
Photos by Nghia Ngo.