Knicks' Jeremy Lin stirs passion among area's Asians

Posted: March 22, 2012

To hear South Philadelphia native Siuman Yau tell it, he was way ahead of the Jeremy Lin hysteria.

"I was," said the 24-year-old son of Chinese immigrants as he waited for friends outside the Wells Fargo Center before Lin and the New York Knicks played the 76ers. "I heard about him when he was at Harvard. I YouTubed him a couple of times, checked out his highlights."

Living in New Jersey now, Yau was one of waves of Asian American and Asian fans who helped to pack the arena as Lin, the Taiwanese American rookie free agent who was the talk of the league recently, made his first appearance of the season here.

A former Penn State student, Yau said that on most night's he's a Sixers fan. But not on this night.

"Today I'm rooting more for Jeremy Lin and the Knicks than I am for the 76ers," he said.

Lin gave his fans something to cheer, too, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks to an 82-79 victory that cut the Sixers lead in the Atlantic Division over second-place Boston, Friday's opponent, to just one game.

"We love that energy, that was awesome," said Lin, who was somewhat surprised by the high number of Knicks fans in the crowd. "So thanks to the fans of Philadelphia, we really appreciated it."

When Lin came out of the tunnel before the game, fans, many of them Asian, crowded the area and leaned into very uncomfortable-looking positions to get a picture or shoot video of their hero. Many wore his No. 17 jersey or T-shirt.

Fourth-year Temple finance student Hyacinth Deng came to the United States from Beijing. She said she's not much of a basketball fan, but that would have fooled anyone who saw her as she and four friends from various cities in China arrived early to sit in their $100 seats.

Deng admitted that if Lin was not in the house, she, too, would have been elsewhere.

But her pride, she said, made this a must-see event.

"I'm so proud of him," Deng said, as her friends waited anxiously for her to finish her interview. "The thing for Jeremy Lin is that he's not only a good basketball player but he also graduated from Harvard, which makes him so special. He's so young, he's almost the same age as me, and that's why our young people are so interested in him."

The Wells Fargo Center was full of not just Lin fans but Knicks fans in general. Producer-director Spike Lee was the most visible near the New York bench in an orange No. 17 jersey. At one point in the first quarter they made the Knicks feel at home with a thunderous "defense" chant. Of course, Sixers fans didn't have much to cheer about early as the team missed its first 14 shots.


Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com or on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

 

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