Monday, March 2, 2015

30HG Interviews: Simon Valenzuela (@dongmegatron) Aussie NBA fan, jersey collector

@dongmegatron - Simon Valenzuela, Aussie NBA fan, jersey collector
I stumbled onto Simon aka @dongmegatron's collection on Instagram and instantly geeked out. Not only did he have an impressive array of obscure NBA jerseys but better still -- was representing Australia.

I've expressed my appreciation for overlooked jerseys, having founded the #Scavenjersey campaign to encourage myself and others to snap novel basketball jerseys in the wild. Interestingly @dongmegatron found himself in my archive when I snapped his Josh Childress' Atlanta Hawks jersey at a Sydney Kings game. This was an interesting revelation days after Simon was kind enough to share his process as undoubtedly the most comprehensive collector of Australian NBA jerseys.

I unwittingly capture Simon for his Josh Childress #Scavenjersey
months before finding his @dongmegatron IG
Find my interview with Simon below and make sure you check out our entries to be ESPN's Ultimate Fan.

1) The first jersey that started the collection and the moment you decided to dedicate yourself to the cause?
I first started following BBall in 1994. My first jerseys were the ones retailing in Australia made by Starter around 1994/95. I first had Shaq and Penny black Orlando jerseys, but the first jersey I was really proud of was the Champion Blue Orlando Horace Grant jersey. Got it from Card Shaq in Parramatta and was stoked to see it in the store. It wasn't til I began part time work that I was able to start buying whatever jerseys I wanted though.

The collection really started to come about when Australian retailers began selling the Concept Sports/Steve Rolton Agencies jerseys that were licenced in Australia. This was around 2001 when they had Jordan Wizards, Kobe, Vince Raptors, KG, Iverson etc. I began buying all of those and then got into the online scene as eBay became more accessible and had much more variety and teams from Nike/Reebok / and now Adidas. Soon enough I had a jersey from each of the 30 teams, then a home/away/alternate etc.

2) What percentage of your jerseys were bought when the player was active compared to after. Could you break it down? 
In terms of the Australian NBA players, I guess a majority would have been acquired after the player was active or had changed teams. Obviously with the current crop of 7 players it's a lot easier to get the base home/away jerseys of these players. However, with the new style of Swingman it's much harder to get role players jerseys made up. Also about half of the Aussies that have played in the NBA are either retired or playing overseas, so all of them I've had to source after they were active.

a) Arena and Team store buys (current, physical)
Went to USA for my 30th and went to 6 different arenas, so bought a jersey at each one. But obviously a very small portion as I don't have access.

b) Auctions, outlets (after, physical)
Meigray for Game Worn jerseys. Bought a few different ones in the last few years. Game worn Mills and Baynes NBA Finals jerseys, Baynes Latin Nights jersey, Baynes Christmas jersey, Dave Andersen jerseys, Mills opening day Championship commemoration jersey and the recent Bogut/Delly/Bairstow Christmas jerseys. Still a small percentage.

c) Online retailers (current, online)
Over the years I've bought a decent amount from online retailers. NBA.com when it was easier in the past, FansEdge, Fanzz, etc. but prices are high and the ones they sell are generally also available on eBay so these days I don't do retail too often.

d) eBay (after, online)
Majority off eBay. Sellers are much more likely to ship to Australia. Steady supply of blank jerseys which is great for making Aussie players. Prices are much cheaper, especially for players not with that team any more (fullmoonjerseys sells cheap Swingmans) as well as plenty of sellers selling authentic jerseys much lower than the $300 retail.

VIDEO: Australia's Biggest NBA Fan presented by ESPN  
This is Simon's submission for the 'ESPN Ultimate Fan' competition. 
Find his entry here and make sure to upvote it. (Entries close March 15, 2015)

3) Where do you stand on counterfeits and the ability to customize jerseys with "Insert name" services? 
I'm against counterfeits especially the ones you see at Paddy's Markets etc that are so obvious. There's some very high quality fakes online which are much harder to spot, and they're not so bad. I think replica screen prints are absolute garbage. The Reebok/Adidas ones are so cheap looking, have huge wide shoulders which make the dimensions look square.

In terms of customising, I'm all for it. That's how most of my Aussie jerseys have been able to be made, by buying blanks or stripping other players jerseys. This has been a godsend, as NBA.com is quite a headache (shipping so overpriced/don't ship custom jerseys to AUS/limited range of customisable jerseys). This is more evident now a days when teams have all these commemorative jerseys eg. Christmas Day / Spurs Military/Warr iors Chinese New Year where they only sell the star players jerseys. In the past it wasn't so bad, as I could strip the stitching on a Swingman and get it customised but now the 2015 jerseys are heat pressed and I'm not sure they can be removed with any amount of ease.

4) Have any of the players ever reached out to you about your collection? 
A few have. Mark Bradtke sent me a DM on Twitter, and I've seen plenty of ex NBA guys at NBL arenas or Boomers events (Schenscher/Heal) or (Jawai/Patty Mills/Dave Andersen) and they've all commented on the jerseys and often told a story or two.

5) If you were to start another collection now, i.e collecting jerseys of every NBA player from Lithuania, would it be possible? How crucial is timing and getting a headstart? 
It helps but I have only really been making an effort to collect Australian players the last 5 or 6 years. I think it'll be harder now if you're going for era authenticity as the NBA logo is now on the back of the jersey etc, so current custom swingman jerseys won't be consistent with players prior to this season. But many of the jerseys I've made eg. Longley Timberwolves have had to be customised jerseys (strip name and number off Laettner) and sent to this tailor in the US who does a very good job. So it can still be done but depending how far back you want to go, it obviously gets harder. But using your example it'd be quite easy to find an old Rasheed Wallace Portland swingman and turn it into a Sabonis, a Tim Hardaway or Chris Mullin. A Warriors Hardwood Classics jersey into a Sarunas Marciulionis, so it's not impossible. Just need to know the right place to get the custom name/number sewn on.

6) Talk about the process and rewards. Describe the thrill of the chase to those non-collectors out there. Any "ones that go away"? 
There's always ones that got away. In the last year or so there was a Game-worn Anstey Bulls and a Longley Suns jerseys that went for only a couple of hundred bucks but as with any hobby there's always a thrill in collecting. You learn to recognise the rarer types of jerseys and appreciate someone else's collection. And by posting my pics on Instagram now I see how many other people out there like the same thing.


7) What is your all-time holy grail? What's your prized possession. Any preferences as far as manufacturers and eras?
I love the Patty Mills finals game worn jersey. It has a place in history and it also fits me so I can wear it in public. Also Horace Grant was the first player I began collecting so I have plenty of game worn Orlando/Lakers jerseys as well as some hard to find ones like Authentic Bulls, Authentic '94 All-Star and Authentic Sonics jerseys. But the era I probably like the most is around the '95-99 era, when champion used a lot of the tie-dye or whatever it was to ink the logos in the jersey. Ones like the pistons horse head, Hawks Mutombo style, Sonics finals, Rockets Pippen types. Brings back that nostalgic feeling of when I was younger and never had access to these jerseys.

8) Any Jersey collections you look up to or would like to mention?
The way I began getting them customised was when I bought a Sonics blank jersey off eBay and the seller was able to make it into a Horace. After that I kept in contact and found out he could do it to many jerseys, as he had access to old champion materials and had a good tailor that did a professional job. His name is Jersey Jim and I popped into his place in Fresno California when I was in the States. This dude has one of the most impressive NBA game worn jersey collections in the world. Thousands of jerseys, I could've spent all day there. He obviously has contacts in the league to allow him to get such good gear.

9) Do you have collector peers? Is there a scene, how can someone get involved in it? 
Not really into any scene as such, I'm not aware of any. My friends and I all have an abnormally large amount of jerseys, but that's about it. I've come across some nice collections on Instagram, but I'm very new to the app.

Follow Simon on Instagram - @dongmegatron
Vote on ESPN and send Simon to LA - Australia's Biggest Fan

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Part of the reason I started #30HomeGames was not only to share my love for the game but to find likeminded people who shared the same passion and interest. It's been an ethos that has served me well in my travels, bonding through sport and connecting with fellow fans even when language and being an outsider proved a barrier. This connection has been an example of that, the mutual appreciation and willingness to share tricks of the trade to a fellow fan
Realising @dongmegratron and I had already crossed paths says a lot about the Court Vision #UltimateNBAfans share.