The media coverage of Jeremy Lin’s move to the Rockets bothers me. There’s a little too much equating of or suggesting that Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming are interchangeable.
They’re not. The domestic, local excitement for Yao Ming was strong, but it was nothing like that for Jeremy Lin, perhaps because Jeremy Lin was born and grew up here.
Yao factored prominently in Toyota’s $100 million decision to put its name on the City of Houston’s then-new arena in 2003, which has paid off tremendously. And Yao was great business for the Rockets organization and individual players
Many Rockets landed lucrative shoe contracts with Chinese companies on Yao’s coattails and Rockets’ games drew massive television ratings there.
Yao was a star in China before he received a visa to play in the NBA, a result of the union of two professional basketball players and trained in China’s junior league since his teens and in basketball school at 9. Lin was born in the US, learned basketball at the YMCA, and was overlooked for college basketball scholarships and the NBA draft. Yao is a giant who played center. Lin is below average height for the NBA and plays point guard. Yao’s education has been minimal. Lin went to Harvard. There’d be no comparing them if Lin wasn’t Asian [American].
I thought this Associated Press article would come close to getting things right. I had great hopes with its precise language early in the article, but an unnecessary “but” ruins the entire piece:
While Alexander said the decision to pursue Lin was “all basketball,” he acknowledged that he could potentially impact the Rockets’ brand in the way that Yao Ming did, expanding its reach in Asia. But that depends on how good Lin becomes and if the team improves along with him.
Lin is American-born, but of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, and the number of Chinese media at the news conference was about equal to the American contingent.
KUHF, Houston’s local NPR station, was even worse
Some say Lin is an obvious fit in Houston, because of his Asian heritage. With Yao Ming gone, Lin could step right in.
At least no one said Lin was filling in the chink Yao’s departure left in the Rockets’ armor. Without the ESPN incident, I suspect that would have been someone’s headline.
Lin, of course, will be great for the Rockets’ business and will bring fans new and old alike to the Rockets. And that’s because, as Ronn Torossian put it, Jeremy Lin is “a marketing dream come true.” That’s in his own right with his own appeal in Asian markets, not as some sort of Yao Ming replacement.
Emil Guilermo over at AALDEF’s blog gets it mostly right
Not since Bruce Lee has there been such a galvanizing athletic pop icon to match Lin. Sure, Yao Ming came close as an NBA center. But Yao was an oddity as a 7-foot 6-inch center from the Mainland. He wasn’t an immigrant. He was an Asian national superstar from China. Lin was the unlikely All-American California kid who broke all stereotypes and played his way to the top. For Asian Americans, there was life after cello practice. Linsanity was awe-inspiring.
But Linsanity isn’t over. It’s just beginning. Like Peter Goodman wrote, the Knicks just screwed it up a bit.
- Justin Gillenwater