#Linsanity Lands on Asian Shores
The meteoric rise of the NBA's first Chinese-American player has reinvigorated one of the league's marquee franchises and captured the world's attention. Much of the mania is coming from Asia, where basketball-crazed fans are identifying with this phenomenon.
- There had been an obvious vacuum in one of the world's largest basketball markets for almost half a year. Fans throughout East Asia lacked a star of their own since Yao Ming retired due to injury concerns this past summer. That's why there was cause for excitement across China, Taiwan, Korea, and elsewhere on February 4th, when a little-known Harvard graduate with Taiwanese parents came off the bench to unexpectedly drop 25 points and seven assists on the New Jersey Nets. The buzz began to grow louder two nights later, when he propelled the Knicks to their second straight victory in his first NBA start with a dazzling array of moves around the hoop, finishing with 28 points and eight dimes. By the time he torched the Los Angeles Lakers for 38 points and buried a cold-blooded three pointer at the buzzer to beat the Toronto Raptors, people across Asia were fully immersed in Linsanity.
- The best evidence? His account on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo has skyrocketed to over 1.3 million followers.
- Basketball-savvy Chinese fans are watching him intently and are impressed with what they're seeing. Weibo user Hong Jiachun says, "Jeremy Lin's play is really fun to watch. He moves fast and, in particular, has a fast first step; he has rhythm and the strange ability to change direction; he has a strong body, and is not afraid to be aggressive or physical..."
- New Tang Dynasty Television has tracked the young star's emerging popularity amongst Chinese social media users.
- But nowhere is the Jeremy Lin pride stronger than in Taiwan, the homeland of his parents and the source of his Taiwanese-accented Mandarin. The Associated Press reports from a bar in Taipei, already packed to the brim at eight in the morning with Taiwanese clamoring to see Lin play.
- For some, however, it is a conflicted sense of pride. Lin was born and raised in the United States and has never lived in Taiwan or China. His rapid ascent has sparked an interesting conversation about race in China. Bloomberg's Adam Minter has an overview of this dialogue on Sina Weibo. Whereas some are calling him the "Pride of Zhejiang" (his mother's birthplace), one Weibo user questioned the hype, "Jeremy Lin is just an American. He doesn’t even mention China, yet China's editors have blown him up into a god, this native-born American…"
- A different Sina Weibo user believes that it doesn't matter where he was born, because he is still of Chinese descent: "No matter what, American-born Chinese are of Chinese origin. In Americans' eyes, they are still Chinese. So is it wrong for us to support Jeremy Lin? We should definitely support him!"
- China and Taiwan aren't the only countries claiming this "native-born American" as their own. South Korean Twitter users are jumping on the bandwagon as well. One user, @erazerh, says, "...I thought he would reveal his limit, but he's been doing awesome even under the tremendous attention."
- South Korean Twitter user @hikoseijjuro compared Lin to South Korean golfer Se-ri Pak, who became a symbol of hope for the country during the devastating 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis: "Now America is in a fever because of Jeremy Lin. I guess his background and recently outstanding performance, like a miracle, brings up the image of superhero to Americans. If I were to make a comparison, he is like Se-ri Pak, professional golf player when Korea was under the IMF."
- A Twitter user with the handle @namtae is convinced that, "He is really worthy of the phrase, 'Legend in New York.'"
- Others, like @HANYERON, are less concerned with the racial implications of an Asian-American basketball star and more interested in his looks. She says, "Jeremy Lin is so sexy hahaha."
- Lin hadn't won over everyone though. Kobe Bryant was interviewed in the locker room before the now-famous Kobe-Lin matchup, and was thoroughly unimpressed with the instant phenomenon.
- Lin then proceded to score a career high 38 points in a Knicks win over the Lakers. And of course, you haven't made it as a Taiwanese celebrity until Next Media Animation pokes fun at you. They're obviously rabid Lin fans, but still have the sense of humor to chide him for being a benchwarmer and for making constant religious references in interviews.
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