New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin bursts onto national scene

The Takeaway

If you’re a New York Knicks fan, or a follower of the NBA, chances are you know Jeremy Lin.

Lin, a Harvard graduate, struggled to make it into the NBA. NBA scouts universally passed on him. But now that he’s there, he’s making the most of it. Lin also represents a first for the NBA. While Yao Ming has certainly been a noteworthy Asian to make it in the NBA, Lin is the first Asian-American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the league.

He’s also a devout Christian — and the best hope to revive pro basketball in New York City.

“I just try to make sure when I get out there on the floor I play as hard as I can. I try to do everything I can to help my team win,” Lin said. “And I play unto God.”

Keith Chow, an Asian-American basketball fan and editor of an anthology of Asian-American superheros, said the past week has been “Linsanity” — Lin has scored 20, 38, and 23 points over his last three games and is playing nearly 40 minutes per day.

His career average, according to the NBA, is just 5.4 points per game and 12.4 minutes over the course of 43 games.

“I think for a lot of people in the Asian-American community there was a big sense of pride. Many of us have been following Jeremy’s career since he was in high school, and definitely since he was in college,” Chow said. “His success in the NBA is, at once, a surprise and, at once, not a surprise for a lot of us.”

Lin’s also captivated an overseas market for the NBA. Lin’s roots are in Taiwan, where a whole new gambling industry has sprouted up around Lin’s success. 

Chow said most anyone with Asian heritage is exploding with excitement over Lin.

“Much as every Asian-American claimed Tiger Woods,” Chow said of the pro-golfer whose mother is Thai, Chinese and Dutch and whose father is African-American, Chinese and Native American. “I think that Jeremy’s success has been a boon for the entire Asian-American community.”

Lin’s Harvard pedigree is by accident. It was actually his fallback school — like the other Ivy League schools it doesn’t offer athletic scholarships — and he’d actually hoped to attend Stanford or another academically and athletically prestigious school on the West Coast, near where he grew up.

Chow said Lin is more iconic for Asian-Americans because his experiences, the racism he felt on American basketball courts, is their experience. Unlike Yao Ming, who grew up in China and then came to the U.S. as an established pro.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how many Asian-Americans have played in the NBA. Lin is the first of Chinese descent, but others have come before him. Wataru Misaka, who also played for the Knicks and is a Japanese American, is widely credited as the first Asian-American in the NBA and he was drafted in 1947.

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