Lin-sanity spreads to China

Lin-sanity spreads to China

The rise to stardom of Jeremy Lin, the first US-born NBA player of ethnic-Chinese heritage, has taken China by storm as the New York Knicks player becomes the focus of adulatory interest online.

Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks during an NBA game in New York on February 10. The rise to stardom of Lin, the first US-born NBA player of ethnic-Chinese heritage, has taken China by storm as the Knicks player becomes the focus of adulatory interest online.

Lin, the 23-year-old point guard for the Knicks, has captured attention worldwide after coming off the bench last week and helping New York to five straight triumphs while stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were absent.

He was already popular among Chinese basketball fans after he joined the Golden State Warriors last season in San Francisco. In 2010, he also participated in charity basketball games organised by China's famed Yao Ming.

But ever since he dropped 38 points on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday morning Beijing time, the number of followers of his Chinese Twitter-like weibo microblog has shot up, reaching nearly 850,000.

"Lin Shuhao (Lin's Chinese name) thank you!" one fan said on Sina's weibo service.

"I have once again found a reason to be infatuated with the NBA after Yao Ming retired, and it's because of you."

Chinese press reports said Yao -- a huge star who retired from the NBA last year -- had sought to sign Lin to the Chinese Basketball Association's Shanghai Sharks during the NBA lockout last year but Lin opted against playing in China.

While difficult to match the huge interest generated by Yao over the years, Lin's sudden stardom means that basketball fans in China have another person to focus on beyond Yi Jianlian, currently the Asian nation's only NBA player.

On Sunday, China's state television CCTV even adjusted its NBA schedule, broadcasting New York's win over Minnesota and announcing it planned to show more Knicks games this week.

Lin has also become a fixture with leading sports newspapers like Titan Sports Weekly and the Basketball Pioneers, while search engine Baidu.com turned up 1.6 million Internet postings under Lin's Chinese name.

His Chinese Wikipedia-style Baike page, meanwhile, has generated 3.5 million hits.

Lin had a difficult start in the NBA. He was undrafted after playing at Harvard University but eventually reached a contract with Golden State in July 2010. They waived him in December last year.

The Houston Rockets then briefly claimed him but Yao's former team also ended up waiving him.

But he eventually found a place with the Knicks late last year, and became the first player since LeBron James to average 20 points and eight assists in his first two NBA starts.

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