Jeremy Lin's good, but not as good as Yao - NBA boss
Updated: 2012-02-10 15:55
By Sun Xiaochen (chinadaily.com.cn)
Basketball player Jeremy Lin (L) shakes hands with Chinese basketball star and former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming during a charity basketball match for Yao Foundation Charity Tour in Taipei, southeast China's Taiwan, July 28, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING - David Stern's league got a big gift out of nowhere.
The NBA commissioner is already hailing Jeremy Lin – the New York Knicks' Asian American point guard – as a sensation who might mean another boost to the league's appeal in Asia.
"He's really been a phenomenon," Stern told China Daily during a videophone conference on Thursday night. "Having a Chinese-American player who suddenly burst on the scene and did so well is very exciting for us. I think it's more exciting for Knicks fans as well.
"He's started for only three games. But his stats are very impressive, and he has been warmly embraced by the New York City fans. That can only help us in terms of lifting the game's ratings and popularity in China."
Lin, a Harvard graduate, averaged 25.3 points and 8.3 assists his past three games to lead the Knicks to three straight wins, rising quickly from obscurity to stardom.
Driving the team's offense smoothly during the absence of scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, Lin has won over New York's notoriously picky fans, who have already nicknamed him "Linsanity".
New York had lost 11 of 13 before Lin's emergence.
Even the Phoenix Suns' former MVP guard Steve Nash tweeted about Lin – "if you love sports you have to love what Jeremy Lin is doing. Getting an opportunity and exploding!!" The 23-year-old has already become a star in China.
The highlights of his breakout game against the Nets last season had drawn 1.27 million views on Sina.com's NBA page even before his name became the 19th most-searched-for term on China's biggest web search engine, Baidu.com, three days later.
Lin's rocketing popularity has reminded fans of the impact of Yao Ming, whose July retirement left a big void.
Stern said Yao's popularity won't likely be matched, and stressed that Lin still has a long way to go.
"I don't think anybody in the NBA, from the Chinese perspective, will ever become a bigger star than Yao. Yao was the first, the biggest and the most successful. And he will always have a special place in the heart of NBA and Chinese fans," Stern said. "Jeremy has three good games. We have to see how he does in the next 300 before we make any judgments."
Stern says he doesn't want to count on Lin prematurely.
"It's true that fans at least come sometimes initially to the TV set to see someone who is special for them," he said. "And someone with Chinese-American heritage will bring more fans to the sets I think. This will be good for us.
"But how good will it be? He was cut by the Golden State Warriors, by the Houston Rockets and was sent by the Knicks to the (National Basketball Development League). And then he comes up and becomes a star. That was wonderful for our league, but we have to wait and see how he will do. I don't want to overburden him with expectations."