8 Asians

Having gone to Duke for business school, I’ve attended my share of college basketball games and have even gone to the Final Four. But I’ve never been to an NBA game, until this past Friday night. That was when I attended the Golden State Warriors’ second regular season 2010 – 2011 game against the L.A. Clippers for their annual Asian Heritage Night game, which also would be when Taiwanese American Jeremy Lin, recent 2010 Harvard graduate and Warriors NBA draftee, would play his first minutes as an NBA player in an official game (he had played in some pre-season games).

The Golden State Warriors had reached out to many Asian American organizations in the Bay Area,  including the Taiwanese American Professionals – San Francisco (TAP-SF), which is where I first found out about the event. During the post-game Q&A session with Lin, the Warriors said that this was by far their greatest Asian Heritage Night turnout in Warrior history, with over 2,100 group ticket sales.

For most of the game, Lin was nowhere to be seen except on the bench. At times, the score between the Warriors and the Clippers waxed and waned, but the Warriors seemed to stay ahead from 4 to 12 points or so. If the Warriors were ever behind, it wasn’t by much or for that long, because I really didn’t notice. The first half closed out with the Warriors ahead by something like 4 points.

During half-time, the half-time show was an lion dance performance, with no less than 4 “small” lions and one “big” lion extended on stilt-length polls (see vide0).

During the 2nd half of the game, the lead expanded to over 20 points, yet the Warriors had not put in Lin into the game. During the second half, periodically – especially when the lead had expanded, Lin fans were chanting “We want Jeremy! We want Jeremy!”

I was surprised with less than half a period left (6 minutes) in the last quarter, if the Warriors didn’t put Lin into the game, there would be a riot and I would be mad as hell! I mean, I would understand if the game was close. I don’t think any NBA coach would want to put in a rookie player who was unprepared – even if the home team crowd and his fans were expecting him to play – if the game was on the line.  I don’t know anything about the L.A. Clippers, but I do know they aren’t exactly the L.A. Lakers…

Finally, the Warriors put Lin into the game with around two-and-half minutes left, and the crowd went wild, standing up and cheering. When Lin had a jump ball, the crowed really got into it and everyone stood up. Whenever Lin got the basketball, the crowd cheered. Lin did have one drive to the basketball hoop, but wasn’t able to score. For me, given his limited time on the court, it was kind of hard to assess what his future prospects might be. All the expectations of Lin on the court start and the pressure will only increase, now that the regular season has started. As a recent article on Lin stated, “Local kid. Asian-American. Undrafted [in the NBA regular draft]. Harvard.” A lot of expectations!

After the game, the Warriors had post-game activities for all the Asian Heritage Night participating organizations, including a raffle for prizes, an amazing performance by the Capitol Flow Dance Crew, and as promoted, a Q&A session with Jeremy Lin by a local sports announcer, with some audience pre-submitted questions.

Questions included everything to how it was like to be play his debut game in the regular season, fitting in with the team chemistry and any “hazing,” teasing of the rookie and running errands, his experience with Yao Ming in Taiwan, how him being in the NBA means to the Asian American community and breaking stereotypes, his basketball idols while growing up & currently, what he appreciates most about his Asian heritage, on working & developing into an NBA player, etc.

There were a surprising number of middle and high school aged kids at the post game activities – and I really got the sense of what kind of role model Jeremy Lin is to Asian American kids growing up. When I was up in the bleachers, I was sitting next to a father and his 4 or 5 year old son who was waiting and excited to see Lin play. I can honestly say that while growing up, there were a lot of things I didn’t think I could become – not because I didn’t think I had the ability – but because there weren’t really many Asian American role models back in the 1980s. Especially living in California, Asian American kids really have less and less mental blocks and more examples of success and goals apart from the traditional engineer, scientist, doctor, lawyer or accountant. I really do wish Jeremy Lin the best of luck is his new NBA career and can honestly say it was a real honor seeing history being made seeing Jeremy be the first Taiwanese American to be an NBA player and one of the few Asian Americans ever to play in the league.

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