Even if you are not a basketball fan, the recent success and rise of Jeremy Lin has been thrilling to track.
In his short 23 years, Lin’s life has been a series of remarkable events: Harvard-educated, one of the few Ivy League players to play professional ball, and, of course, Lin’s performance beginning February 4 in back-to-back games where he has set personal record after personal record. Perhaps most miraculously– in our opinion– is that his 5’6 parents produced a son who grew to be 6’3? Amazing!
It’s been interesting to watch China’s netizens and basketball fans reaction to Lin. Born and raised in Palo Alto, Lin’s parents moved to the United States from Taiwan and while he has great-great grandparents from China’s Mainland, Jeremy is 100% American. The New Yorker’s Beijing Correspondent Evan Osnos put it best when he commented, “He [Lin] understands Mandarin, and speaks enough of it to answer some interview questions, though one joke making the rounds is that former Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury—who has spent the last two years in the Chinese league—might have better pronunciation.”
That being said, this Valentine’s Day, China has a new sweetheart and it is definitely Lin. Lin set up a Chinese Weibo account (comparable to Twitter) and several days ago @JeremyLin林书豪 had around 840,000 followers with only 58 tweets. In the course of one night, his following grew by 50,000 people. A recent post on Feb. 9th had 9000 comments! Lin’s posts are very personal and often incorporate his commitment to religion. Two days ago, Lin posted, “God is good during our ups and our downs.”
Earlier today, we sat down with WildChina’s #1 NBA fanatic to get some perspective on this new celebrity. Wang Fan, a WildChina’s Operations team member, has been playing basketball since he was 14. Each week, Wang watches hours of live NBA games and plays on a local team. While I expected Wang to gush over this new star, Wang was much more reserved. He feels “many Chinese are interested in Lin, but there is no way that his fame and success compare to Yao Ming.” Wang also noted that “Chinese people like him because he looks like us, but we all know that he is really an American.”
We are looking forward to tracking this story in China– we certainly know that China NBA is on pins and needles right now, hopefully for another big success à la Yao Ming to increase the already strong following of NBA in China.