Jeremy Lin’s incredible run in the NBA is over. As the first American-Chinese or Taiwanese player in the history of the league, not to mention the first Asian-American to win an NBA title, the “Linsanity” superstar is taking his talents to Beijing . In China, the point-guard will discover – something he clearly didn’t realize after his rock-bottom comments – that he’s one of the most influential athletes in the world.
There was always something special about Jeremy Lin. It wasn’t just his ethnicity, though the media (and Jeremy ) were quick to point out that his rise to the top of basketball was more difficult because of his race. It wasn’t his academic achievement either, though as a Harvard graduate he had the brains to match his skills on the court.
Jeremy Lin is a superstar because he was an American dream story-line in a sport where even first-round draft picks fade into obscurity. Lin wasn’t even drafted and yet here he was proving everyone wrong, destroying opposition teams almost single handedly.
Kobe Bryant did his legend a favor by disrespecting him shortly before he dropped 38 points on the Lakers. It was the most dramatic zero to hero performance in NBA history. Now, Lin looks to have regressed to zero, describing his situation as “rock bottom.” A little perspective will quickly show him how wrong he is.
In China, Jeremy Lin will cast a bigger shadow than any American athlete can throw in the saturated U.S. market. He already enjoys a cult-like status in the U.S., but in Asia, there is nothing niche about his support. While it seems plausible that Jeremy could one day return to the NBA, his time in China may well make him ask himself why he should bother.
The NBA disrespected him and rejected him where China will give him almost godlike status. China’s population is nearly four times bigger than the U.S., and the NBA is more popular than the three largest soccer leagues in Europe combined . Nations will always celebrate their own more fervently than foreigners, and in a new home in Beijing, Lin may find himself once again at the fever pitch of public interest.
If anyone will know what it’s like to deal with sudden, overwhelming fame, it’s Jeremy Lin.