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Star for the East

Lin shoots the ball against the Miami Heat at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. (Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sports

Star for the East

Jeremy Lin strives to be a light to the people of China

It’s been seven years since NBA guard Jeremy Lin rocketed to stardom. Seeing his first action as a starter for the New York Knicks, Lin promptly erupted for an average of 24.4 points per game as New York won seven straight in February 2012. That span included a 38-point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

That brief stretch began what was known as “Linsanity,” and Lin wasn’t shy about his Christian faith as he became an NBA star. Today, Lin is a backup guard and a journeyman who recently left the Atlanta Hawks for the Toronto Raptors, and Linsanity has died down a bit. But he still professes his Christian faith, and Linsanity is still strong among basketball fans in at least one country—China.

Lin is a native Californian with family roots in both China and Taiwan. In China, Lin has basketball camps that teach the game to thousands of kids, a reality TV show, and a celebrity charity game. “We’ve done it two years in a row,” he told the South China Morning Post of the charity game. “And this past year we had I believe 18 million people watching online.”

Before a recent game between the Atlanta Hawks (Lin’s team at the time) and the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Lin told me about the challenges of sharing his faith. He estimates that he visits China three or four times a year, and he admits he can’t be as open about his faith as he’d like to be while he’s there.

“It’s difficult because it’s a communist country,” Lin said. “You can’t really be direct about your faith there. I try to push my values, but I can’t be outright about it.”

His efforts were not lost on two Chinese fans at the Hawks-Blazers game. “He’s always posting quotes from the Bible on Instagram,” said Anbio Shen, a University of Oregon (UO) graduate student from Shanghai. “He’s always saying that everything is the best arrangement of God. He always has a positive attitude toward everything, which is why Jeremy’s very popular not just in China, but everywhere.”

His actions speak even louder, according to Shen.

“NBA players have a lot of affairs,” said Shen, who wore a “Linsanity” T-shirt to the Hawks-Blazers game and owns one of Lin’s game-worn jerseys from his days with the New York Knicks. “He never has that sort of thing. That’s very important in China, which is still very conservative. Jeremy’s a very good role model for a lot of kids in China.”

“We all love him,” said Haoyue Li, a UO graduate student who hails from Shenzhen: “Jeremy’s very hard-working. His physical talent is not outstanding, and he’s had a lot of injuries”—he missed practically all of the 2017-18 season after hurting his knee with the Brooklyn Nets in their season opener—“but he’s very persistent in proving himself.”

Lin is also popular in the United States, but his NBA career has not been without controversy: He briefly wore dreadlocks, a hairstyle popular among African-Americans. Former NBA player Kenyon Martin took offense at Lin’s hairdo in an Instagram video, accusing Lin of cultural appropriation: “We get it. You wanna be black.”

Lin responded via Twitter stating Martin was entitled to his opinion but that the more minorities “appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society.” Lin coupled his statement with a picture showing multiple tattoos of Chinese characters on Martin’s forearm.

Lin—who has since shorn his locks—saw Martin’s attack as an opportunity to be a light for Christ. “I always feel you can be loving in your response, no matter what,” he said. “[Being a Christian] doesn’t mean you always have to get stepped on. You can be firm and loving at the same time.”

The Raptors will be the eighth team Lin has played for in his nine-year NBA career. When news came about Lin’s move to Toronto, William Lou of Raptorsrepublic.com wrote that Lin was a solid acquisition for the team and noted Lin’s status as an “icon” in Asia: “This means the Raptors gained a massive fanbase, and all the consequences that come with it. … It won’t be long before fans start calling for Lin to start ahead of Kyle Lowry, and I’m sorry in advance.”

Transgender roundup

South Dakota: A bill that would have classified high-school athletes according to their gender at birth died in a state Senate committee in late January. South Dakota current policy allows athletes to compete according to their proclaimed gender identity.

Numerous school and business groups opposed the bill, calling it discriminatory and pointing out the negative impact other states have suffered after passing “bathroom bills.” However, the bill’s supporters said the legislation was necessary to keep boys from winning state championships in girls’ sports.

Currently, only four states—Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas—classify athletes exclusively according to the gender on their birth certificate.

Mohd Fyrol/AFP/Getty Images

Martina Navratilova (Mohd Fyrol/AFP/Getty Images)

Martina Navratilova: The female tennis icon made herself the target of LGBT fury when she declared on Twitter that men who claim to be women should not be able to compete in sports against actual women.

“You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,” Navratilova, a lesbian, tweeted. After a backlash, Navratilova backed down, deleted her tweet, and promised to “educate myself.”

Football: Cut from a women’s semi-pro football team in a league that prohibits biological males from competing for safety reasons, a transgender “female” sued the team in Minnesota state court—and won.

Christina Ginther, a 6-foot male in his 40s, tried out for the Minnesota Vixen of the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) in 2016. When the Vixen discovered that Ginther was transgender, the team told Ginther he was ineligible to play.

Ginther sued the Vixen and the IWFL under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In December, a jury sided with Ginther, awarding him $20,000 in damages, including $10,000 in punitive damages.

Kelly Defina/AFL Media/Getty Images

Hannah Mouncey, right (Kelly Defina/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Women’s handball: Biological male Hannah Mouncey led Australia to a fifth-place finish at the Asian Women’s Handball Championships in Japan in December. Listed as tall as 6-foot-3 and as heavy as 250 pounds (media reports vary), Mouncey scored 23 goals in seven contests, including six against New Zealand on Dec. 4.

The Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) banned Mouncey from entering its 2017 draft because his height, weight, and testosterone levels were too high. Mouncey denounced the AFLW’s decision as a form of “body shaming.” —R.H.