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Asian fans cheer 'Linsanity'

By Madison Park, CNN
August 24, 2012 -- Updated 1258 GMT (2058 HKT)
Jeremy Lin tosses a basketball during a promotional event in Hong Kong.
Jeremy Lin tosses a basketball during a promotional event in Hong Kong.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeremy Lin is on an Asia tour and stopped in Hong Kong
  • Lin spoke to hundreds of kids about his NBA career and upbringing
  • He faces great expectations after signing with Houston Rockets

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Jeremy Lin, the undrafted Cinderella of the last NBA season, got peppered with questions by adoring fans and children in Hong Kong.

What's it like seeing your name on a jersey? In short: "Weird."

Did your parents want you to be a lawyer or doctor? No.

Can you speak Mandarin? Some.

What's your favorite Lin pun? "Super Lintendo."

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When the new Houston Rockets point guard returns to the basketball court in October, he not only faces the pressure of turning around a struggling franchise, but the expectations of the Asian diaspora who have elevated him to near folk hero status.

His improbable run in February from a no-name, Ivy-graduate benchwarmer to a starting point guard rejuvenated the Knicks, dominated sports magazines and endeared him to fans in Asia.

The Asian-American NBA star arrived in Hong Kong this week, after stops in Taiwan and China.

"The reception has been far beyond what I imaged," Lin said, about his Asia trip. "I'm grateful they support me and care."

Fans flocked into a Hong Kong mall with books, posters and his old New York Knicks Jersey. Some even dressed in Harvard Unversity shirts. Lin, who turned 24 on Thursday, looked at times sheepish by the outpouring of attention showered on him.

On Thursday, he tweeted:

Lin appeared in a kick-off ceremony for an initiative, called New World Springboard that is designed to provide underprivileged kids with opportunities to sports and mentorship.

The kids asked him questions like how he juggled his studies and basketball when he was a student. They cheered when he spoke haltingly in Mandarin.

When asked about how he overcame challenges, Lin repeatedly spoke of his faith.

"I think God has blessed me with unbelievable opportunity, the way he put everything together, the situation, I think it was a perfect storm. God is the first person I'm going to attribute things to," he said.

When asked the question about nationality -- whether he considered himself Chinese, Taiwanese or American, Lin replied: "My identity is in Christ."

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He also fielded questions about being Asian in the NBA and getting through stereotypes.

"I'm naturally stubborn and hard headed," he told the audience. "Don't let people tell you what you can't and can do. People try to say you can't do this, you can't do that. Continue to chase what you love doing, work hard at it."

Lin signed a three-year $25.1 million contract with the Houston Rockets in July after the New York Knicks decided not to match the offer. He will now play for the former team of Chinese center, Yao Ming.

How does he handle the inevitable comparisons?

Lin described Yao, who is retired, as a "Hall of Famer, All Star and global ambassador for the game."

"What I've done can't be compared to what he's done," Lin said. "We both want to play the right way, inspire kids and grow the game."

"Linsanity" fans staked out hours before the event. Ryan Cheng, 20, said he came out because "there are not a lot of Asian persons in the NBA."

"He's a true underdog story," the college student added.

His pal, Vincent Choi, standing beside him chimed in: "He's like a made-for-TV movie."

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