Why the Rise of Jeremy Lin not a Surprise After all?

Jeremy Lin, the new Chinese-American basketball star in the NBA games recently has been taking on most of the spotlight in the US as well as across the world.

Despite all the Cinderella type of admiration and also some sour grapes kind of racist hype this young man has got to date, some implied questions remain looming – big in the back of many people’s minds: Is this guy coming from nowhere? So does this mean those young piano playing or academic elite Asian kids now can play like a star in NBA and other mainstream sports as well? Isn’t that a surprise?

The fundamental answer is no, it’s not a surprise, at all. Three major reasons for the why.

First, China and the Chinese people have always made a great civilization, long before some others even start or exist. During the over 5000 years of long history, innumerous talents, heroes, and giants have marked their time and remained shining and role models till present.

Then one may ponder if so, why the Chinese came to the new world around the end of the 19th century were mostly poor, shabby, and badly educated? Why the folks living in Chinatown only knew about making their living in a restaurant or laundry store?

Well, every civilization has its up and down time. Some civilization that was beaten so hard during its downtime might have even stopped to exist. The American first impression of China and its people happened to come from during China’s very down time: the nation fell behind in adapting itself to the modern and industrial world, and to make it worse, at the same time, it was being invaded and exploited nearly by all the Western powers back then. Thus got to give the Chinese some time to adjust themselves and catch up. Now as we enter the 21st century, the dragon does start to take off again.

Second, simply from the sports angle, Jeremy Lin doesn’t jump out from nowhere either. Before this, during the past 20 years how many times China already ranked itself high in Olympic medals count. In basketball, Yao Ming, the former well known Huston Rocket center from China has made quite an impact in the court. During last year NBA lockout, quite a few US players actually traveled to China to play in CBA there. So the Jeremy Lin phenomenon now is not a surprise after all and no doubt that his icon will motivate more Asian kids to flex their youth in major sports.

Third, some folks may say OK, the Asian guys can play, but amazingly Lin plays as a star point guard and leads the whole team from victory to victory, while Asian guys often are deemed to be lack of leadership and charisma. That is a wrong impression too.

True the Chinese culture traditionally didn’t quite favor much individualism. But as China is starting off its modern steps, the old concept is fading away and individual leadership and achievements have got more prime time nowadays. Why the Chinese economy is booming? Yes, the government is a factor, but there are so many emerging entrepreneurs in China are driving this growth from all angles, which makes the real engine power for China’s rise. Leadership is not a stranger for the Chinese, and of course they add some Chinese flavor into it like what we witness Jeremy Lin is doing in the court for his unselfish teaming efforts.

In a word, we expect to see more Jeremy Lin types on the world stage as time goes and it will become business as usual.

David W. Wang
David W. Wang is a senior international business affairs consultant, researcher and columnist based in Washington DC.He is the author of the world best selling book Decoding the Dragon's Mindset - Inside China 's Destiny and its Hint to the World (Seaburn Publishing Group, 2009, New York ).