Mike Mon is founder and tournament director of the Asian Basketball Championships of North America. As a 2017 Connect Sports Game Changer, Mon discusses his passion for sports tourism.
What I do: I created the Asian Basketball Championships of North America to bring together Asian basketball teams from across North America to compete for a true national championship. For many years, there were individual Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese tournaments, but there was never really a place to bring everyone together. My goal has been to bring everyone under one umbrella, to give our players exposure to potential professional careers and to allow everyone to network/vacation in exciting new cities.
How I got here: I played in all sorts of Asian and travel hoops tournaments through high school and learned the value of these events firsthand. When I got to Rutgers University, I began to host small-scale tournaments that brought together college teams representing Asian clubs and continued that when I went to law school at Temple University. I led the North American Chinese Basketball Association as tournament director from 2002-14. It became time to move on to a bigger-picture event, so I created ABCNA in 2015.
Why I am game changer: Asian basketball has traditionally been underrepresented at the higher levels of professional and collegiate hoops. ABCNA has brought together teams from different ethnic backgrounds and parts of the country. We have an Eastern Regionals, a Western Regionals and National Championships, which gives teams the opportunity to compete at a higher level. The increased exposure of our tournaments and our network have helped players get overseas professional contracts and have given college exposure to many of our youth players.
My greatest career accomplishment: Getting the ABCNA off the ground was hard. It’s difficult to break into the market. Everyone questions your reasons for doing it; CVBs don’t know your organization; you have no history to give hotels; and other tournaments see you as competition trying to take away their market share. But we did it, largely thanks to Josh Todd (formerly of Visit Mesa, Arizona), who partnered with us for our first annual National Championships. We are now firmly established and respected within the community, and reaching out into new areas.
Impressive stats: From the first to the second year, we were able to increase our attendance from 250 room nights to 500 room nights.
What I’m working on: We hope to be able to continue our growth to the point where we can host a Midwestern Regional and Southern Regional in upcoming years. Those areas are really underserved in the Asian roundball community. If we can help them grow—whether through sponsorship, social media exposure or teaching them how to be self-sustaining in their own areas—then it will benefit everyone in the long run.
What I do outside of work: I am probably the only child-abuse attorney in the sports tourism industry. I am a deputy city solicitor with a current caseload of about 700 cases in child welfare. It’s such a sad job to see the abuse that some kids have to deal with, often at the hands of people they trust. It can be very stressful and leads to a high rate of staff turnover in our office. That’s why I’m so glad to have an amazing family to come home to and a tournament like the ABCNA to keep my life balanced.