After nine seasons in the NBA, Taiwanese-American basketball player Jeremy Lin will join the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The Chinese team announced in an article Tuesday on social app WeChat that Lin has signed a one-year contract with the club. The 31-year-old point guard will fill the team’s third and final roster spot for foreign players, alongside former NBA big men Ekpe Udoh and Justin Hamilton. Lin will reportedly receive $3 million this year, one of the highest player salaries in the history of the CBA.
“All I can say is THANK YOU to the NBA, my family, inner circle, every fan who came to watch or rooted for me during these last 9 years! To challenge stereotypes, make history, rep Asians at the NBA level and pave the path as others have done for me has been an absolute privilege,” Lin posted Tuesday on Instagram. “Equally excited for this next step with the Beijing Ducks! I always knew my path would go through the CBA solely bc I knew how much of an honor it would be to hoop in front of all my Chinese fans.”
Stephon Marbury, the mercurial NBA star who left the league to become the beloved face of the CBA, said earlier this month amid speculation about Lin’s signing that he would be “a good thing” for the league. “I bet he would pick up on that Beijing dialect quick!” Marbury wrote on microblogging platform Weibo.
Lin’s path to the CBA can be traced back to 2012, when NBA Hall of Famer and current CBA chairman Yao Ming invited Lin to play in the Chinese league during a lockout-shortened NBA season. (Lin had already obliged, joining the Dongguan Leopards for an October 2011 preseason tournament at which he earned MVP honors.) Last year, Lin said during an event in Shenzhen that he would “consider joining China’s national team if invited.”
After a standout playing career at Harvard, Lin was not selected in the 2010 NBA draft. The Golden State Warriors took a flier on him, however, and signed him the same season. He went on to play for eight NBA teams in nine seasons, averaging 11.6 points and 4.3 assists. His career has been marked by both lows and highs — none more manic than the Linsanity era with the New York Knicks in 2012, when Lin erupted in a midseason game for 25 points after playing just 55 total minutes in all previous games that year. He went on to average an eye-popping 26.8 points per game over a six-game winning streak.
But the flashes of brilliance were short-lived, and Lin struggled to find a consistent role with an NBA team in the years that followed. “Free agency has been tough, because in some ways I feel like the NBA has kind of given up on me. And I always knew if I gave anybody a reason to doubt, they would,” Lin said during an emotional testimony at a church service in July.
Earlier this summer, Chinese media reported that the free agent’s representatives were entertaining the idea of a future for Lin outside the NBA, and had connected him with a few CBA teams, including the Fujian Sturgeons and Guangdong Southern Tigers. Lin is rumored to have turned down an offer from European powerhouse CSKA Moscow before signing with Beijing. His current one-year contract affords him the flexibility to return to an NBA contender looking to bolster its roster in the playoffs.
Some Chinese sportswriters have posited that fans’ adoration of Lin during the player’s tour of the country this summer may have played a role in his decision to join Beijing as the team eyes its fourth CBA championship. Hupu, a popular forum site for China’s die-hard basketball fans, has been inundated with netizens welcoming Lin, hot off the heels of winning an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, to the CBA — which they hope will be more than a temporary home.
“You proved your ability the NBA,” one netizen commented under a Weibo post from Lin’s official account. “Now get rid of those detractors and build a dynasty at home.”
For his part, Lin has tried to temper the expectations of his Chinese fans. “I’m not here to recreate Linsanity,” he told Beijing media on Wednesday. “I’m just focused on helping the team.”
Lofty expectations and talk of dynasties aside, CBA fans by and large have responded to the news of Lin’s imminent arrival with open arms. “Welcome home, Shuhao,” another Weibo user wrote, using Lin’s Chinese name. “Let’s make some history.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Jeremy Lin of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles during the first quarter of a game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden arena in Boston, Dec. 14, 2018. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/VCG)