Just a few weeks ago, Jeremy Lin was an almost-unemployed basketball player killing time posting how-to-get-into-Harvard videos on Youtube. Cut twice in December by NBA teams, he was at the bottom of the New York Knicks’ bench before posting unprecedented numbers in five straight Knick “Lins.” It’s Linsanity in New York!
He’s a Linsation outside the U.S., too, especially in Asia.
China and Taiwan, which have a history of not sharing well, both claim Lin as their own. Lin was born in the U.S. to parents from Taiwan, but one of his grandmothers moved to Taiwan from the mainland. The Taipei Times, which has run multiple Lin stories on more than one day, headlined one “Jeremy Lin is Taiwanese!”
Lin speaks little Chinese, but has participated in a basketball camp in Taiwan, and says he’ll go back. The country has asked him to play for its national basketball team. The Knicks are big, too – ratings have soared for its games. They’re also seeing ratings jump in China, where basketball gained popularity after the success of Chinese-born Yao Ming.
In Japan, the Japan Times praised Lin’s perserverance.
The Lin phenomenon has drawn comparisons to the kind of interest created in by the Houston Rockets’ 7 foot 6 inch Yao Ming. But NBA commissioner David Stern says 6 foot 3 inch Lin can’t replace Yao. And Chinese basketball commentator Yang Yi told the China Daily News “to firmly establish himself in the NBA, Lin needs to play regularly, and it’s still too early to say he can do that.”
For now, his Lin-tillating play and improbable story is warming a lot of hearts.
“No Asian-American had such success in the NBA before Lin, whose first game as a starter for the Knicks not only attracted Chinese fans but also saw South Koreans and Japanese cheer for him, too. The whole of Asia is proud of him,” Chinese sports commentator Zhang Weiping told the China Daily News.