Skip to main content

Jeremy Lin: The NBA's breath of fresh air

By David Challenger, CNN
February 15, 2012 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
Everyone loves a battle-against-the-odds story, and Jeremy Lin fits the bill perfectly.
Everyone loves a battle-against-the-odds story, and Jeremy Lin fits the bill perfectly.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lin is the first U.S.-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA
  • In just weeks he's gone from one-time bench-warmer to team savior
  • He has led the Knicks to five straight victories and averaged more than 20 points per game
  • Lin is the first Harvard graduate to play in the league for almost 60 years

(CNN) -- In the last week, Jeremy Lin has gone from an unknown professional basketball player struggling to get time on court to an overnight sporting and media sensation. CNN takes a closer look at the first U.S.-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, and how he's becoming more popular with every game.

Who is Jeremy Lin?

Born to parents Shirley and Gie-Ming on August 23, 1988, Lin is an Asian-American NBA player for the New York Knicks. He wears the jersey No. 17 and plays as point guard. As a professional basketballer he's not overly tall, measuring 6 feet, 3 inches (191 centimeters) and weighs 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms). He played for four years at Harvard, and has spent just one year as a professional player.

Career highlights:

Following his stint at Harvard (where he was twice named to the all-Ivy League), Lin failed to get drafted by an NBA franchise, and instead signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors in July, 2010. In December 2011, Lin signed with the New York Knicks after being cut by the Houston Rockets. His 109 points in his first four starts this past week have surpassed Allen Iverson's to become the most by any player since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.

Jeremy Lin a marketer's dream
Lin taking NBA by storm
Oh the 'Linsanity'!
Lin setting the NBA abuzz

'Linsanity': Why the hype?

Everyone loves a battle-against-the-odds story, and Lin fits the bill perfectly. The reasons for his meteoric rise to become a U.S. basketball sensation are numerous, but it all starts with talent. In just weeks he's gone from one-time bench-warmer to team savior, leading the Knicks to five straight victories and averaging more than 20 points per game, while his field goal percentage during this winning streak tops 50%. In Friday's game against Kobe Bryant's L.A. Lakers, he reeled off 38 points in that victory alone.

Lin also stands out due to his academic prowess, being the only current NBA player who has a Harvard degree, and is the first Harvard graduate to play in the league for almost 60 years.

Harvard grad Lin has shot at basketball immortality

Then there's the race factor: Lin is the first U.S.-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, which is helping to tap into the significant market of Asian-American basketball fans. This in turn is spilling over to NBA devotees in general.

Why Jeremy Lin's race matters

"He's amazing, how could you not be excited," asked a punter watching Lin play on TV in a bar in Minneapolis on Saturday. "I mean look at the Knicks, have you followed them for the last 10 years? And then this guy shows up and he knows how to play the game -- you've got to be excited."

His ethnicity is even having an effect globally -- even though Lin hasn't built up celebrity status in the Chinese leagues like retired center Yao Ming did, the Chinese interest is already there, with 900,000 followers on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, already secured. The NBA has also said its TV partners in Asia will soon start showing Knicks games.

On top of his athletic and academic abilities, Lin is also drawing fans for his public devotion to Christianity who are thinking about the role model he'll be for their children.

Lin has said he was raised in the church and became a Christian in high school. After beating the Lakers on Friday, he said, "I just give all the praise to God." He also said in an interview in 2010 that he wants to be a pastor post-NBA.

A marketer's dream

From a marketing perspective for the Knicks, Lin's popularity is proving a boon -- last week his No.17 jersey was outselling those of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

And with the PR damage from the recent NBA lockout and the steady decline of old superpowers like the L.A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics, the league is looking for new personalities to draw fans into the sport. With his multicultural attraction, Ivy League background and come-from-nowhere storyline, Lin has that in spades.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT