How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

#Linsanity in LA: Local Asian-Americans cheer Lakers' trade for Lin

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In an Arcadia shopping center, word of Jeremy’s Lin trade to the L.A. Lakers had spread to Huxley Phan and his friends, even before the deal was made official Sunday morning.

None were big fans of the NBA. But everybody approved of Lin going to the Lakers and helping the team out of its slump.

“The Linsanity — bring it to L.A.,” said 21-year-old Phan. “Maybe it will all hype us up again.”

Phan, who was on break from bussing tables at a dumpling house, said that he was excited to see Lin, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, on a high-profile team. It would mean a lot in the San Gabriel Valley, he said. Arcadia, where he lives, is 61 percent Asian.

"We’re not known to be super athletic," Phan said. "So maybe his presence might encourage other Asian-Americans to pursue their dreams."

Lin's career has cooled since the height of "Linsanity" in 2012, when he went on a scoring streak on the New York Knicks and hit a career-high of 38 points, first in a game against the Lakers. And while he may be wearing purple and gold now, the Lakers have only committed to him for the one season left in his contract, as part of a trade with the Houston Rockets that includes a future first round draft pick and a second round draft pick in 2015.

But the point guard has many believers and will likely pick up more Asian-American fans when he comes to the Lakers, predicted Joz Wang, editor-in-chief of L.A. County, alone, has nearly 1.5 million residents of Asian descent. 

“There’s a huge fan base here,” said Wang, who is Taiwanese-American. “Literally people like me — not huge fans of the NBA, or even huge fans of basketball but fans of Jeremy Lin.”

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak in a statement Sunday called Lin "a solid player who will make us a better team" who would receive a lot of support.

“In addition to what he’ll bring us on the court, we think Jeremy will be warmly embraced by our fans and our community," Kupchak said.

The floundering Lakers will likely get a ratings boost out of their newest acquisition. UC Riverside professor Karthick Ramakrishnan pointed out in AAPI Voices that Los Angeles is the largest Asian American television market — "five times larger than Houston’s."

Wang said by coming to L.A., Lin would be in a place where “he’s at least appreciated, if not by the ball team, then at least by the fans.”

Many Lin fans saw it as a sign of disrespect when earlier this month, Houston tried to court Carmelo Anthony by Photoshopping him into Rockets No. 7 jersey — the same as Lin’s.

Lin, who is Christian, responded by tweeting a Bible verse: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

In announcing his move to the Lakers on Instagram, Lin said of his time in Houston that it was "sad it never went, or ended, the way I had envisioned it to, but God always has a perfect plan and I'll forever cherish that chapter of my life."

Jeremy Lin via Instagram Ten-year-old Alex Xie of La Cañada Flintridge, for one, had unflagging faith in Lin and what he brings to the Lakers.

"With Jeremy Lin, it should boost it up — quite a bit," said Xie, who aspires to be a professional athlete — in basketball, soccer or football.

Fans on social media welcomed Lin as soon as word started to spread Friday morning.



Lin will also have huge international appeal, with jerseys sure to fly off the shelves in China and Taiwan, countries that both lay claim to him. The player did little to settle the debate over his heritage when he said in an interview:  “I’m really proud of being Chinese. I’m really proud of my parents being from Taiwan.”

Chinese-born Ray Peng said for him, it only mattered that Lin is Asian.

“There is some guy’s face, who looks like us, and he is playing in the N.B.A.,” said Peng, a 24-year-old film student in Burbank. 

Shirley Wang of La Cañada Flintridge said the last Asian-American athlete she could remember making it big was French Open winner Michael Chang. Notable Asian athletes since have hailed from overseas, such as China's Yao Ming, formerly of the Rockets, or Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu of South Korea.

But with the acquisition of Lin, the Lakers doubles its number of Asian-American players. Rookie Jordan Clarkson is half-Filipino.

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