By Amber Wang ,AFP
TAIPEI — New NBA sensation Jeremy Lin has sparked a war of words between Taiwan and China as the rivals seek to lay claim to being the New York Knicks player’s true ancestral homeland. U.S.-born Lin, whose parents are Taiwanese immigrants, has been hailed as “the glory of Taiwan” and inspired a feverish following on the island after coming off the bench and powering the Knicks to a stunning run of triumphs this month. His fans in Taiwan range from President Ma Ying-jeou to teenagers rushing to get a Lin haircut. The Taiwan sports lottery has seen brisk sales as buyers place record bets on matches featuring him. “It’s humbling, a privilege, and an honor. I’m really proud of being Chinese, I’m really proud of my parents being from Taiwan,” Lin said in a recent interview. But there are also many across the Taiwan Strait who want to claim Lin as their own. His maternal grandmother is from the mainland, and there are even outlandish calls for him to represent China in the upcoming Olympics. “Lin is virtually a household name in China, like Yao Ming, and there is wave after wave of calls for him to join the Chinese basketball team in the London Olympics,” said the state news agency Xinhua. Yao, China’s first global sporting icon, joined the Houston Rockets in 2002 as the first player from outside the United States to be selected as the top NBA draft choice. “Lin is making our China look good,” read one message on China’s popular microblog Sina Weibo.
“Lin is a legend in my family, even my mother who didn’t watch sport before now really likes him because he is Chinese and he can score,” said another. Xinhua, which said Lin’s ancestors hail from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, noted that he would have to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to play for China.