NBA sensation Jeremy Lin was a last-minute addition to the NBA’s All-Star Weekend Rising Stars Challenge for first and second-year players on Thursday.
The New York point guard, who has electrified the NBA since the Knicks turned to him on an emergency basis, was named along with Miami’s Norris Cole to swell the pool of eligible players to 20 shortly before Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley began choosing players for their teams.
The move puts Lin, a seldom-seen bench-warmer two weeks ago who became a hero when forced into a starting role, into the NBA’s signature weekend, and O’Neal made him the third pick for his Team Shaq.
NBA commissioner David Stern had told USA Today that Lin — who had not yet taken the league by storm when the original pool of 18 players was named for the Rising Stars Challenge — would not receive a special invitation to play in the game.
However, Lin’s addition gives the league a chance to show off its new star, whose explosion on the scene after he was undrafted out of Harvard University and cut by both Golden State and Houston has inspired fans.
As the first US-born NBA player of Taiwanese heritage, Lin has also galvanized Asian NBA fans.
Barkley praised Lin’s addition to the event, saying it was “really stupid” that the NBA had not moved earlier to add him.
Blake Griffin, the high-flying star of the Los Angeles Clippers, will not defend his title in the All-Star dunk contest, which will include New York’s Iman Shumpert, Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, Indiana’s Paul George and Houston’s Chase Budinger.
ESPN.com reported that Lin could play a role in the dunk competition, assisting teammate Shumpert.
All-Star Weekend, which begins on Thursday, will culminate with the All-Star Game on Feb. 26 in Orlando, Florida.