Linsanity swept Taiwan as Jeremy Lin (林書豪), the first NBA player of Taiwanese descent, arrived in Taiwan earlier yesterday, marking his first visit since his meteoric rise with the New York Knicks earlier this year.
Holding handmade heart-shaped signs with messages like “Jeremy Lin, Welcome” and “I Love Jeremy Lin,” some in the shape of basketball player’s jersey or teddy bears, Lin’s fans gathered at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport earlier yesterday morning, waiting to give him a hearty welcome.
Some of the fans sang out their admiration for Lin by changing lyrics of the song You Are My Sunshine to “You are my hero, my only hero. When I think of you, I couldn’t sleep.”
Fans waiting at the terminal had their smiles briefly turned upside down as a special arrangement had been made for Lin to leave the airport by another route.
However, they cheered up after receiving a short video message recorded by Lin saying: “Thanks for visiting me at the airport, sorry I couldn’t see you guys … but I’ll see you guys tonight. Thanks for coming again.”
Heading straight to the hotel for a short rest, Lin’s itinerary for the daytime was kept secret until he tweeted at about 3:50pm, saying: “thanks TAIWAN for the heartwarming welcome … I’m so glad to be back!! See you at the nightmarket??” with a photograph of himself holding a cake made into his image sitting on his lucky couch.
More than a thousand fans, some waving placards reading “Linsanity” and “Can you sign my jersey?” thronged Ximending (西門町) in Taipei last night, where Lin met with local fans at an event organized by his sponsors.
“Hello everyone, thank you for coming here to see me,” Lin, who recently signed a three-year, US$25 million contract to play for the Houston Rockets, said to the crowd in Chinese with a big smile, adding: “I love the energy here in Taiwan.”
Lin later responded to a wish list presented by six children from the Eden Social Welfare Foundation, including demonstrating his “secret handshake” to a little boy, lifting another boy up into the air when he asked for a big hug and signing basketballs for each of them as a gift.
Lin later arrived at a street hoops gala, where an even larger crowd had already packed the area, waiting to see him demonstrate his skills on the basketball court.
Lin personally instructed 16 lucky basketball players from the audience on how to improve their dribbling, crossover, lay-up and shooting, by carefully correcting their postures and teaching them his own techniques.
According to flight attendants on Lin’s flight from San Francisco to Taipei yesterday, Lin’s basketball skills have made him a star, but it is his personality and charisma that capture people’s hearts.
During the 12-hour flight, Lin was very amiable, “just like the boy next door,” one of the flight attendants said.
After taking off from California, Lin prepared ice packs for his right knee and took a rest, the cabin service director said, adding that Lin was very well-mannered and humble.
Lin will attend a news conference today at 2pm in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義) and will then fly to China for a basketball camp.
Due to time restraints, Lin was unlikely to be able to visit the ancestral home of his father’s relatives in Changhua County as planned. Many fans there expressed disappointment and look forward to seeing him later this month, when he is scheduled to return to Taiwan.