If you're a basketball fan, or a New Yorker, you've definitely heard about Linsanity. It's the underdog story of a Chinese American Harvard graduate being undrafted and cut from NBA teams before exploding in, well, "Linsanity". And for the past two weeks, it has been the talk of the sports world. No one saw Jeremy Lin coming, not even NBA 2K12.
But if you think Linsanity is "Linsane" among New Yorkers and the Asian population back stateside, the fervor is even higher here in China. Nearly overnight, Lin has gained 1,895,836 fans on China's micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, and the count is only going up. This weekend, thousands of Beijingers set their alarm clocks to 2:00 am just to watch Lin and the Knicks play against the Dallas Mavericks. Watching him isn't enough. Some in China are trying to say that the U.S. born Lin is one of their own.
The Chinese media, including Taiwanese media, have dived into everything about Lin and the reports just keep coming in—trivial or not. One report on China game news website game.163.com even cites that he is a fan of the popular Warcraft III mod DOTA.
Lin's heritage however has been a battleground for bragging rights in the Chinese world. The 23-year-old of Taiwanese Chinese ethnicity has fallen into a tug of war between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. The Chinese media refers to Lin as Chinese and make it a big point that he is of Chinese ethnicity. Taiwanese media do the exactly same except change out Chinese with Taiwanese, and they've even gone so far as to get the poor man's grandmother to say he's a "real Taiwanese". The Chinese media is even stating that South Korea is claiming Lin as one of their own as Lin's mother is apparently of the Korean ethnic minority of China, thus he is Korean. It's gotten to the point where Lin asked the Taiwanese media to respect the privacy of his family.
There has even been an editorial from the Xinhua News Agency—China's official news source and the mouth piece of the government—that Lin should give up his American citizenship and play for the Chinese national team in the 2012 London Olympics, citing that his skills would bring the team closer together.
Lin's rapid overnight success in China has some fans questioning why there isn't more loyalty for an actual Chinese player such as Yi Jianlian, who plays for the Mavericks. But unfortunately for Yi, Lin has become the replacement idol that China has been looking for since Yao Ming's retirement.
All the buzz and arguments over Lin and his heritage aside, as a Taiwanese-Chinese American from NYC myself, I can only hope that Linsanity continues—lord knows its about time the Knicks got a star they deserve.
Regarding the hoopster's heritage: my friend Jeffery put out an interesting analogy on Facebook. "Jeremy Lin is to China and Taiwan, what Panda Express is to Authentic Chinese Food, he's American quit claiming him!"