Growing up as a Chinese-American, the story of Harvard star Jeremy Lin's potential future in the NBA has got me wondering about what kind of impact he can have in the league. Not only will he be the first Asian-American to make it to the NBA, but how can he hep draw the interest of the outside world that has never seen a player like him.
Former Palo Alto High School basketball star Jeremy Lin could be on his way back to the Bay Area. Well, that's at least what I am hoping for.
The Bay Area native Lin spent his collegiate basketball career across the country in Harvard and there is a hope that somehow, the Golden State Warriors sign him after the draft.
Even watching his pre-draft interview with the Warriors gets me excited.
Realistically, Lin could end up anywhere during the NBA Draft today; even the Warriors. It's not that Lin isn't a great talent, it's just that the first thing people will notice about him is that he's Asian-American. That becomes the attraction to other people.
I recall reading a Sports Illustrated piece on Lin in January that helped bring Lin to the spotlight. That issue came out only less than a month after I had watched Lin play basketball live in Santa Clara University when Harvard came to town. (I still have my ticket for the game).
The buzz was magical at the arena as a huge group of Asians gathered to cheer on the Taiwanese-American. People that had no connections to Santa Clara flooded the stands. Even friends I hadn't seen in a while came to the game. Nearly three-quarters of the arena was filled with fans in black shirts to match the color of Harvard's uniform. Lin drew the loudest cheers all night. The sensation of it all was simply amazing.
Fans would be taking pictures before, during and after the game. Fans would bring signs in Chinese and have chants in Chinese during the game. Lin finished with a modest six points, four rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
In his final two seasons at Harvard, Lin averaged 17 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Not outstanding numbers, but numbers that shouldn't be ignored by scouts.
The number many people don't know is that Asian-Americans only make up .4% of all NCAA Division I players. That is what makes Lin an attraction.
Growing up in California as a Chinese-American, I had always wondered what the reaction would be like for an Asian-American to make it to the NBA. Sure, I've seen the reactions to foreign players like Mengke Bateer, Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian and Yao Ming and it was nice at first. But for an Asian-American? That's going to be something I haven't seen before.
There will be no language barrier or cultural barrier for Lin in the NBA. He'll just be like everyone else on the court. Except he's a guard — an uncommon position for Asians in the NBA.
The media, particularly those of the Asian media, will be all over Lin's progress through the NBA. There will be an incredible following of Lin if he does end up with an NBA team tonight.
Unlike the aforementioned Asian players, Lin isn't a center. As a guard, Lin will be a focal point in leading the team's offense as a ballhandler. And compared former Los Angeles Lakers guard Sun Yue (of China), Lin could actually see some consistent playing time early on as a building piece to a team's success.
There's a hope that Lin can wipe away the stereotypes of what we're used to here in America. Most Asians, whether from another country or born here in the States, have been viewed as either very smart or very distant from the rest of society. There isn't a common view of any Asians being particularly good in the game of basketball.
It will be particularly interesting to see where Lin goes during the NBA Draft. If he isn't selected, he will become a free agent and have the choice to sign with any team he desires. Barring any trades, the Warriors will only have the sixth overall pick in the draft —way too high to select Lin. His only chance to join the Warriors is if he doesn't get drafted and he's signed by Golden State.
With the huge collection of Asian communities in the Bay Area, wouldn't it be nice to have Lin return home to play ball? I would be very excited to see someone that I can relate to from the Bay Area making splashes on the NBA court. It wouldn't definitely add some hope to the struggling image of the Warriors. Or it can at least draw some outside interest to a team that has fallen rock bottom only a few years removed from a playoff run.
Regardless of where Lin ends up, I will be cheering for him. He is a rare kind of talent that can not only make an impact on the court, but also add interest to the game off the court. Even though basketball is a growing sport internationally, Lin can help draw the interest to the Asian crowd domestically. And that's something I'm excited to see happen over the next few years.