Before Jeremy Lin: 5 Asian athletes who starred on the world stage (PHOTOS) ǀ GlobalPost

Before Jeremy Lin, there was Yao Ming.

In fact, Asian athletes are well placed and successful in team sports across North America. The Houston Rockets drafted the Chinese-born Yao first overall in 2002, becoming an all-star eight times before injuries forced him to retire last season.

His success in the NBA led to as much off-court success, including a documentary film, Super Bowl commercial with Yogi Berra and some fast-talking New Yorkers (Yo, Yao, Yogi…) and a starring role in Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympic opening ceremony.

Maybe that’s why it seems Yao spotted Lin’s talents long before he became a media darling for the New York Knicks. Lin was part of the Yao Ming Foundation’s 2010 tour of Taiwan, and the two remain fast friends.

“I talk to Yao after every game,” Lin told ESPN. “He’s taken me out to eat every time we’re in the same city. He’s obviously a role model and a big brother and mentor to me. We keep in touch all the time.”

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