New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin celebrates after his long pass hit Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire for a layup against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, February 29, 2012. [Photo\Agencies]
US President Barack Obama said Thursday that he had known about NBA star Jeremy Lin's talent long before the Asian-American's "Linsanity" phenomenon swept the sport.
"I knew about Jeremy before you did, or everybody else did, because Arne Duncan, my secretary of education, was captain of the Harvard team," Obama told noted ESPN's sportswriter Bill Simmons in a podcast.
"And so way back when, Arne and I were playing and he said, 'I'm telling you, we've got this terrific guard named Jeremy Lin at Harvard.' "And then one of my best friends, his son is a freshman at Harvard, and so when he went for a recruiting trip he saw Lin in action. So I've been on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon for a while," said the US President, who is a Harvard Law School graduate.
Lin, the New York Knicks' point guard, has had a meteoric rise in the past month from undrafted and twice-discarded benchwarmer to high points scoring stardom in Madison Square Garden, the world's biggest basketball stage.
He is the first US-born player in the NBA of Chinese heritage and he has already developed a devoted following among many Asian-Americans in the United States and in China, the Philippines and other countries.
Traffic to the NYKnicks.com website surged as basketball fans from around the world search for Lin news and video highlights. "He seems like a wonderful young man. And, look, it elevates this great sport all around the world," said Obama, a Chicago Bulls fan, alluding to the labor dispute that led to the delay of the NBA season opening.
"If you've got billionaires on one side and millionaires on another, you guys can figure out how to divide some money up. And ultimately they did. And it was the right thing to do," said Obama. "And what's been encouraging is to see how fast the sport has bounced back."
But he sounded a note of caution on how much basketball costs to watch.
"It's real important for professional athletes and sports owners to just remember you got a whole bunch of folks out here, all across the country, who invest so much in their teams, and they don't begrudge these guys making millions of dollars, or the owners making gazillions of dollars - most of them - very rarely can they afford to buy a ticket to go to an actual game.
"All they ask is don't be so selfish about it that you're not looking out for your fans," Obama said.