Asian basketball sensation Jeremy Lin made his debut for the Toronto Raptors on Thursday in a game against the Washington Wizards, marking the first time in franchise history that a player of Asian descent was signed.
His appearance on court led to an enormous standing ovation from the fans, as well as support posted on social media platforms during the game.
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Lin has been discussed by many sports analysts and fans, some of whom wonder if he is as great as many say he is or if his popularity is a result of his ethnicity.
“It’s not fair that he bears this responsibility, but he’s not afforded the same privilege as other athletes,” Lou said.
Being an Asian in a predominately African-American and European-centric sports league does wonders for Lin in terms of individuality. The last time there was an Asian star in the NBA was when Yao Ming was an active member of the Houston Rockets.
With Lin still being an active player, many Asian fans of the NBA look to him as their representative.
“The unfortunate fact is that Asians are largely absent in Western media, and so Lin is thrust into the spotlight even though he never asked for the attention,” Lou said.
“Speaking from the perspective of an Asian-Canadian, to watch Lin is to be seen with a clarity that cannot be found anywhere else, because he shatters stereotypes just through his very existence.”
From a fan’s perspective, the Asian community is delighted with Lin’s presence in Toronto.
“As an Asian person, it’s always nice to see Asians getting representation, but when it’s within your city, it’s a pretty big deal,” said Etienne Caronan, a Filipino post-secondary student and a longtime Raptors fan.
“For all the Asian people struggling to find their cultural identity and pride, Lin’s a pretty big deal.”
Regardless of his impact off the court as a player of Asian descent, what about his impact during the game?
Lin is seen as solid role-player off the bench. Many of his fans remember his stint with the New York Knicks, which gave birth to the “Linsanity” phenomenon.
Though he has endured multiple injuries and has been signed and traded by several teams, many Toronto fans hope to see Lin improve the team through his high basketball IQ and solid playmaking, especially with the absence of injured point guard Fred VanVleet.
“Lin is a solid veteran playmaker who can keep Toronto’s second unit afloat until VanVleet returns next month,” said Raptors Republic blogger Lou.
“Lin can do a bit of everything on offence, and he’s an intuitive player who will always make himself useful simply by recognizing what the situation calls for. He’s going to be a seamless fit and will be a useful contributor for the playoff run.”
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Raptor basketball, with high-profile additions to an already playoff-calibre team.
But for the Asian community here in Toronto, to see an Asian player make an impact on and off the court with his presence alone only adds to the excitement of being a Toronto basketball fan, said Lou.
“The substantial Asian community in Toronto and the rest of Canada will embrace Lin not only as a productive player on the Raptors but also as an ambassador for billions.”