'Linsanity' Spreads to China

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: The US and China may have plenty to disagree about, but here's one thing they have in common -- Linsanity! For the uninitiated that word describes the buzz surrounding basketball player Jeremy Lin. He's the first US born NBA player of ethnic Chinese or Taiwanese heritage and he came out of seemingly nowhere last week to become a instant sensation for the New York Knicks.

ESPN announcer: Lin likes the open floor, spinning, put it up and puts it in! Sensational play for Jeremy Lin! And he's got the crowd on its feet again!

Werman: That's the call on ESPN last Friday as Jeremy Lin scored 38 points to lead the Knicks to an unlikely victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Fans here have definitely taken notice and China, well, fans there are claiming him as one of their own because of his ethnic Chinese background. Josh Chin writes for The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report and is based in Beijing. He says people there were impressed when Jeremy Lin scored those 38 points so early in his NBA career.

Josh Chin: There's only been one Chinese origin players who's done that and that would be Yao Ming, so he's in heady company.

Werman: Right, and as you point out in your Wall Street Journal blog, Yao Ming didn't do that until many games into his career.

Chin: Yeah, I think it was like 137 if memory serves, and Jeremy Lin I think did it in three. It's pretty impressive.

Werman: Right, and Jeremy Lin didn't have the fanfare coming into the league that Yao Ming did when he joined the NBA years ago. What is Jeremy Lin's story?

Chin: He's got a fascinating story, I mean it's a sort of classic American underdog tale. He grew up in Palo Alto and took Palo Alto High School to the state championship in California, but then got no scholarships coming out of high school. Decided to go to Harvard, where he was guaranteed a spot, and then basically played his way onto an NBA team in the summer league. Was cut by a couple teams this year and ended up with the Knicks and had a huge breakout game last week.

Werman: Yeah, it's incredible. The smart kid becomes a hoops player Cinderella Story, I mean it's quickly gaining fans here in the US and so is Jeremy Lin, but it sounds like the Chinese are going exponentially crazy for Jeremy Lin. I mean he's actually born to Taiwanese immigrants here in the United States. What is the part of Jeremy Lin's biography that's really caught on in China, what do people like about this story?

Chin: Well, you know, it's the underdog story and you know, the fact that he's a smart kid. You know, he went to Harvard and in China people have a tremendous amount of respect for people who do well in school. He got a 3.0 GPA at Harvard degree in economics, and he's an amazing athlete. I think on top of that he's also sort of not your stereotypical Chinese athlete. He's athletic and he's fun to watch. He's aggressive, and you know, I think that has really captured the imaginations of Chinese kids here who've sort of grown up watching the NBA and wanting to emulate that style of basketball.

Werman: How easy is it to watch the NBA in China?

Chin: It's actually very easy. The NBA has a huge presence here. You could watch basketball games a long time ago. In fact, you often encounter very savvy Chinese basketball fans, I mean they know obviously, Michael Jordan, but even other sort of less world famous athletes, and there's definitely a long history here of watching the NBA.

Werman: So the Chinese kids will be able to quench their Jeremy Lin thirst. Have you seen any New York Knicks #17 jerseys popping up on the streets of Beijing.

Chin: I haven't yet, but I'd have to imagine they're just around the corner.

Werman: It's just a matter of time.

Chin: Yeah.

Werman: The Wall Street Journal's Josh Chin speaking to us from Beijing. And in case you're wondering, here's what the NBA sounds like on Chinese TV.

Chines announcer: [speaking Chinese], yes!

Werman: Language is different, but the Linsanity stays the same. Our Linsanity continues on the web. Read Jeremy Lin's latests tweets, checkout the couch he recently called his bed, and see his video on how to get into Harvard, and that's all at theworld.org.