"It was love at first sight but like with a piece of cardboard!" Irene Liao tells PEOPLE

By Rose Minutaglio
September 22, 2016 03:20 PM

Forget dolls and teddy bears – when 20-year-old Irene Liao was young she preferred the company of her Michael Jordan cardboard cutout.

And she took him everywhere!

“I grew up in Taiwan and I saw Michael Jordan in a Gatorade commercial when I was really young,” Liao, now a student at the University of Delaware, tells PEOPLE. “That’s where my obsession began.”

When Liao was 8, she spotted a cardboard M.J. cutout while at the mall with friends, and decided to buy her beloved flat friend with her own money.

“It was love at first sight but, like, with a piece of cardboard!” she recalls. “I was like ‘I need to buy him!’ My friends were like, ‘What?!’ ”

“They didn’t understand but I thought it was so cool. And from then on I dragged him with me wherever I went!”

Courtesy Irene Liao

She took him to the grocery store…

Courtesy Irene Liao

To the subway station…

Courtesy Irene Liao

Up and down escalators…

Courtesy Irene Liao

Liao even grabbed frappuccino’s with M.J.!

Courtesy Irene Liao

“You name it, I took him there,” says Liao.

Courtesy Irene Liao

“My grandpa is a piano teacher and I took him to my grandpa’s house one time,” she says. “My mom joked that I should write M.J. a song to serenade him, because I was obsessed with him.”

“No joke, I’m pretty sure I did.”

Liao uploaded the photos to her Twitter account – and the post has received over 39,000 retweets.

Courtesy Irene Liao

Liao even took her idol with her to school.

“I propped him up and stood him in the back of the classroom,” she says. “Some kids thought it was weird but some were like, ‘Can I be friends with you?’

Courtesy Irene Liao

“But I didn’t care what anyone thought because I knew my M.J. was cool.”

Courtesy Irene Liao

After complaints from teachers that the cutout was “distracting,” Liao’s parents were forced to throw M.J. away.

“It was pretty sad,” says Liao.

Courtesy Irene Liao

But, thankfully, her Michael Jordan obsession has never wavered.

“It’s my dream to meet him one day or to get another cutout!” she says. “He’s the basketball master, of course!”