Street Talk: Thomas Leung, NBA Superfan
So you like the NBA? Not as much as superfan Thomas Leung, who collects and sells basketball merchandise from his Yau Ma Tei shop. He tells Adrienne Chum about his love of Michael Jordan and the Golden State Warriors, and refuses to let us into his super secret showroom.
HK Magazine: Why Michael Jordan?
Thomas Leung: He was the best on the court, the strongest. With all his achievements, Michael Jordan is the complete package: the scoring leader, MVP, all-star, Olympic gold medalist, everything!
HK: Have you ever bought fake merch?
TL: Of course, when I was young—I bought a Michael Jordan photo with a signature for $40. Obviously a real one wouldn’t be that cheap. Much of what’s on Ebay is fake. This is why the certificate of authenticity is so important. I haven’t bought any fake jerseys; I’ve been able to sniff out what’s real.
HK: Are there any collectible items you’re still trying to get?
TL: Well, now that I’ve got older I’ve come to understand something: Buying the item doesn’t always make you happy. Dreaming about getting the item, chasing the item—that’s what it’s really about.
HK: Do you have any of MJ’s “Space Jam” and baseball stuff?
TL: Not much “Space Jam,” but baseball stuff I do have. That was during his first retirement period, and it was something very interesting to me. Honestly, I follow everything he does.
HK: Do you follow anybody else?
TL: I also follow Jordan’s teammate, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls in general. I lived in San Francisco, so my home team is the Golden State Warriors and I follow players like Chris Mullin—I’m left-handed like him. And of course Jeremy Lin: I have his rookie card from his first season with the Golden State Warriors. He was not famous yet, but I still collected it.
HK: You must have seen loads of games!
TL: Yeah, I had season tickets to the Warriors, and out of about 50 games I’d watch around 30 to 40. One time, I watched four games in a single week! Tickets were really cheap at the time, because the Warriors were pretty bad. Another time, my season tickets included a William Hung concert, so I flew back from Hong Kong to see him perform. I couldn’t miss that show because I’d already bought the ticket!
HK: Where do you keep your collection?
TL: Three-quarters of my collection is in Hong Kong, and the rest is in America. I keep a showroom with controlled air conditioning, humidity, lighting. The room needs to be dusted regularly, too. Normally nobody is allowed in and I keep all the lights off. It’s private, just for fun, for me. Many people want to go in, but in the four years I’ve had the showroom, I’ve let less than 20 people do so.
HK: If you could take Michael Jordan around the city, where would you go?
TL: I would take him to eat fishballs. I’d take him to Sneaker Street, because his “Jumpman” logo represented our generation. His shoes represent a lifestyle; they’re a status symbol.
HK: Do you ever play basketball with a Jordan jersey?
TL: Never. The number 23 is too great: It represents a standard. When you wear the number, you have the responsibility to uphold his greatness. I don’t want to let the number down.
Pay your respects to Michael Jordan at TMC, Shop 255, In’s Point Plaza, 530-544 Nathan Rd., Yau Ma Tei, 9162-3161.