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A face to look up to
Lin, 23, is the first American of Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. Unlike Yao Ming and other Chinese players who have played in the NBA, Lin was born and raised in the United States.
His identity has helped him gain support from Asian-American communities and from Chinese worldwide. Lin is a rarity in a sport where, for a long time, the majority of players have been black. The fact that he is Asian features prominently in news stories and has been the butt of comedians' jokes. Recently, however, ESPN fired an employee for using a derogatory term for Chinese people in a web article.
#Linsanity shoots to popularity
Twitter was aflutter with the hashtag #Linsanity after Lin led the New York Knicks to two consecutive wins earlier this month. His Twitter account gained more than 450,000 followers after his breakout game. On Sina Weibo, he has more than two million followers.
Lin has inspired inventive nicknames, such as Super Lintendo, and terms to describe his sudden fame - a Linderella story, for example. YouTube rap songs and internet memes also hail the new talk of the town.
What he means to basketball and the NBA
Lin surprised everyone on February 5 by scoring 25 points and leading his team to victory. Before that game, he had barely had any time on court. But, after that game, he helped the Knicks to seven straight wins. The Knicks' record had been eight wins, 15 losses, and the coach's job was rumoured to be in danger.
Lin turned his critics and non-basketball fans into believers. Devoted followers in New York and abroad watch his games, and more Knicks games were added to NBA broadcasts on the mainland and in Taiwan. Recently, one of his basketball jerseys was auctioned for charity, raising US$42,388.
He's one smart cookie
Did you know Lin led his secondary school to a California basketball championship while maintaining a 4.2 GPA (i.e. really good grades) as a student?
Despite his stellar sports career at Palo Alto High School, no universities offered him a basketball scholarship, so he chose to go to Harvard University. He set a number of records there (leading the university team, the Crimson, to 21 wins during his senior year) and graduated with a degree in economics.
When he stepped on the court in the NBA, Lin was only the fourth Harvard alum to go that far in professional basketball.
Keeping the faith
Lin is a devout Christian and aspires to become a pastor one day. He has never been shy about his faith, and regularly mentions God in interviews and on Facebook. His faith has also helped him keep his humility amid all the media attention. Some call Lin "basketball's Tim Tebow", after the American football player known for his religious devotion.
Lin entered the NBA draft in 2010, but he was not selected by any of the 29 teams. Instead, he was invited to join a summer league for undrafted players. Lin performed well and was offered a two-year contract by the Golden State Warriors, of Oakland, California.
He played only 29 games in his first season and was released by the team in the off-season. Lin was picked up by the Houston Rockets, but again he was released so the team could sign another player.
Finally, he was signed by the New York Knicks on December 27 after one of their players got injured. And the rest is Lin-story.