There`s been a lot of talk about basketball superstar, Jeremy Lin, and how his skills are doing a great deal of good for the New York Knicks. What many may not know about the player is that he got some, if not all, of his inspiration from former tennis pro, Michael Chang. Although Chang and Lin are champions involved in two completely different sports, they do share a common ground–their Asia heritage.
Both competitors, Lin and Chang, faced a lot of the same adversities when they entered the professional sports world like skeptics who felt that they were too small, submissive and unathletic. Chang has proudly taken on the role of role model, even talking to Lin on the phone before his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors.
“You’re going to have a little bit of racism,” Chang said. “Unfortunately it’s to be expected. Sometimes people put things up that they might find humorous. It’s difficult sometimes when you have somebody who is of a different culture trying to make light of something that is maybe not quite something that they understand.”
Jeremy Lin and Michael Chang have inspired other Asian Americans to get more involved in the athletic arena; whether it be from the stands or on the court.
“In the tennis world, there weren’t a whole lot of Asians playing. You see it a little bit more now. The same can really be said for basketball,” Chang said. “There were only a couple of Asian guys before Jeremy [in the NBA] — Yao Ming being the most prominent. I feel people can relate to Jeremy a little bit easier. He’s 6-3, not a huge guy. People could never say: ‘I want to be like Yao Ming.'”
There are other Asian Americans in the sports world that have been extremely successful like that of Tiger Woods, Hines Ward and Apolo Anton Ohno. However, due to their biracial inheritance, the Asian community could not call them completely their own (not that they would want to claim Tiger with his recent behavior).
“I felt like there was added pressure. Obviously the Asian American community wants you to do well. They are cheering you on no matter what the circumstances. The first initial feeling, at least for me, was to go out and play well and hopefully win and have the Asian community be even more proud,” Chang said.
Not only have Chang and Lin made the Asian American community proud, they have made tennis and basketball fans even more excited about the game. Unfortunately, there are always going to be obstacles but it is was no match for Chang and hopefully his guidance will give Lin the same success.