TAIPEI (AFP) – Asian-American NBA star Jeremy Lin’s success was hailed as a “true milestone” by the league’s boss on Saturday, as the player visited Taiwan with the Houston Rockets amid much fanfare for a pre-season game.
“Jeremy Lin is a true milestone for us,” NBA commissioner David Stern told a press conference in Taipei.
“I think he alone is going to have enormous impact on more and more Asian youngsters playing basketball with the view that if they sacrifice, work hard and become teammates, they can move to a higher level,” Stern said.
As the first American-born player of Asian descent in the NBA, he added, Lin “has been adopted by all countries in Asia as their very own”.
“Eventually there will be more Asian players playing professional basketball in the NBA and that’s the legacy that’s going to come from Jeremy Lin’s success.”
Lin, whose parents are Taiwanese, has become a sporting hero on the island since he shot to stardom in the NBA with the New York Knicks early last year, sparking a global following known as “Linsanity”. He was later traded to Houston.
“Taiwan has always been a very special place for me, you know for me to be here, to play a game here, it’s unbelievable,” Lin said on Saturday. “It never ceases to amaze me every time I come back how much support I get.”
“I am just trying to focus one day at a time. I am thankful that I have the support that I have,” he said in response to Stern’s remarks.
The 25-year-old was mobbed by reporters before a practice in the Taipei Arena ahead of Sunday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, the second pre-season NBA game staged on the island since 2009.
Earlier this week he soaked up similar adulation on his first visit to the basketball-obssessed Philippines, saying Tuesday he was “definitely feeling the love”.
Among those watching Sunday’s game in Taipei will be Chinese basketball icon Yao Ming, a former Rockets centre.
Besides point guard Lin, the Rockets squad includes All-Star players Dwight Howard and James Harden, while the Indiana Pacers roster features Danny Granger and All-Stars Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and David West.