Born in 1988, Lin grew up in Palo Alto, California. His basketball career has been anything but smooth sailing. When he graduated from Harvard in 2010 he didn’t make the NBA draft, later joining the Dallas Mavericks for their NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas. He only signed for the New York Knicks this year.
Why is he in the news?
This time last month, few outside New York knew who Lin was. Now the 6-foot-3-inch point guard is the NBA’s most talked-about player after leading the New York Knicks to a series of victories, starting with the New Jersey Nets on February 4. Li went on to top that effort with 38 points in a win over the LA Lakers last Friday, beating China’s most popular NBA player Kobe Bryant (see WiC17).
Images of Lin outperforming NBA veterans then went viral on the internet, including Chinese cyberspace. By the end of the Lakers game last Friday night, a Jeremy Lin page set up on Sina Weibo had more than 3 million Lin-related messages. By this week, Lin also had almost a million followers on Sina’s microblogging service (versus just over 120,000 on Twitter).
That’s great news for the NBA which will have been looking for a way to maintain Chinese interest in the league since Yao Ming’s retirement last year.
Judging from comments on weibo, Lin may have done just that. “Nice. Since Yao Ming retired I haven’t watched much of the NBA, but now they have him – Go Lin Shuhao!” one netizen wrote. He wasn’t alone. Even former GE boss Jack Welch was excited enough to write on Twitter that Lin was “the most exciting thing to happen to the NBA since [Michael] Jordan.”
Is he Chinese, they ask?
Despite limited ties to the Chinese mainland (Lin was born in America to Taiwanese immigrants), his Chinese fans have been quick to grasp Lin’s ethnic roots. As China-based blogger Adam Minter has noted, among those now claiming a stronger connection to Lin is a Chinese basketball fan from Zhejiang province, ancestral home of Lin’s maternal grandmother.
Apparently Lin is now being called ‘the pride of Zhejiang’.
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