In with the Lin crowd
Perhaps only in New York could Jeremy Lin have become an overnight sensation. It's the 'concrete jungle where dreams are made', as the song goes, and I wonder whether Lin kept this in mind when he was sleeping on his brother's couch in the East Village, being shunted from one basketball team to another, hoping to one day get his chance to shine.
The Taiwanese-American New York Knicks player has become an inspiration for Asian-Americans, showing how far it's possible to go when an opportunity presents itself. Even Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant had no idea who Lin was before the Knicks player led his team to a 92-85 victory over the Lakers just a month ago.
The media's initial reaction was to ask whether Lin was the new Yao Ming, but he's much more than that. Yao has certainly left big shoes for Lin to fill, but most of Lin's Asian-American fans find him easier to relate to. Standing at 190cm (compared with Yao's 229cm), he looks more like them.
'He is living proof that Asians don't need to be seven-feet tall to make it in the NBA. Lin challenges us to re-examine what is possible. He shows that any one of us can make it. It's this, above all else, that captivates us,' a fan named Ken said at a recent Knicks game in Toronto, Canada.
Also unlike Yao, Lin isn't a symbol of 'New China' but rather a 21st-century version of the American Dream - a son of immigrants who found success through hard work and determination.
'I'm happy he's a role model for Asian-Americans, who are usually under-represented. He connects with me because he's American and we have more in common. Also, it's a great story: the underdog who beat the odds to triumph,' says Brian Woo, an Asian-American living in Hong Kong.
New York and the world may have embraced him, but Lin belongs to the Asian-American community first. During a television interview on February 29, Lin said: 'I did not envision everything to turn out the way it did, but I am very thankful to the Asian-American fans ... It means the world to me. I grew up as an Asian-American and so I am just thankful that they are there for me, and they are behind me.'
Lin may be popular in Asia, but he's truly massive in the United States. The 'Linsanity' phenomenon has transcended racial barriers. Anybody who's ever been overlooked, an underdog or a benchwarmer, can relate to him.
Perhaps, just when Americans needed one most, Lin has given them a new fairy tale to believe in.