Before the Coronavirus, Jeremy Lin's Popularity in China Raged On

Video Duration:
2:46

What's Jeremy Lin doing to keep busy during the pandemic? Sports Illustrated's Alex Prewitt caught up with Lin in a recent interview, and shares the major takeaways from his conversation with the former NBA star with SI's Robin Lundberg. They discuss Linsanity in Beijing, Lin's experience being in limbo as a player during the coronavirus, and his philanthropy and activism combatting negative coronavirus stereotypes.

Read the full video transcript below:

Robin Lundberg: Jeremy Lin was obviously upset when he wasn't getting any NBA interest, so he headed to China to play for the Beijing Ducks. Our Alex Prewitt got a chance to catch up with Jeremy Lin.  Now, you know Alex, obviously he, like everyone else, is dealing with this pandemic right now. But pre-COVID, what was Linsanity like in China? 

Alex Prewitt: As big as it was during those initial weeks with the Knicks, he said, you know, on the one hand, Jeremy Lin, like a lot of former NBA players went to China just looking to rediscover his game, looking to find a home again. You know, like you said, he was kind of cast off by the NBA, not unlike for instance Jimmer Fredette last year, the past couple of years when Jimmer-mania was alive again with the Shanghai Sharks. Jeremy Lin goes over to Beijing, and all of a sudden, you know, fans are tracking his every move again. They're flocking the team bus outside the hotel. And he described, you know, his apartment filling up with gifts from fans. And even when he comes back to the country to quarantine amid this coronavirus suspension, an airport employee asked him to sign his hazmat suit. That's just kind of an indication of how Linsanity might be far from our view in terms of NBA eyes, but it's certainly not forgotten over there in China. 

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Robin Lundberg: Yeah, definitely makes sense. Does he still have plans on trying to get back to the NBA? 

Alex Prewitt: I think so. You know, for a lot of these guys, a big attraction of playing in the Chinese Basketball Association is the short season, which gives them the opportunity to take a look at NBA offers. You know, Jimmer Fredette signed with the Suns last year on a ten-day contract and got an opportunity. It didn't work out for him. And perhaps before COVID, the pandemic, Jeremy Lin was looking at something similar. But now, as he put it to me, he doesn't even really know what tomorrow will bring with regards to the CBA—if they're going to restart their season again. So it's kind of hard to tell where his NBA future will lie as well. 

Robin Lundberg: Now, outside of the NBA and the CBA, he is doing a lot of work when it comes to this virus.

Alex Prewitt: Yeah, you know, he wrote an article for The Players' Tribune pledging up to a million dollars, I think $500,000 of his own money and then matching $500,000 as well to support companies that are providing PPE to hospital workers, to health care frontline workers, and in addition food banks to people who need it. You know, on top of that, as really the basketball world's foremost Asian-American superstar, he's taken an outspoken stance against racism, anti-Asian racism that you've seen crop up all over the world, not just in the U.S. in the wake of this coronavirus as people target people of Asian descent just because of the way they look.

Robin Lundberg: That's the latest with Jeremy Lin via our Alex Prewitt. Alex, appreciate your time, as always. 

You can also read more from Alex Prewitt here and from Robin Lundberg here.