TAIPEI, Taiwan — He might be just a comet whose brilliance has flashed off the radar screen of New York, a quaint memory in some leftover blue and orange Knicks jerseys. He might be able to go out to dinner or to a movie in his new home town of Houston without causing a public disturbance.
But there is no question that Linsanity still reigns in Taiwan, the nation where Jeremy Lin’s ancestors were born, where the roots of his family grew long before he became an NBA star and worldwide phenomenon.
There might have been mostly polite applause and approval when the Pacers and Rockets played the first NBA game in Southeast Asia on Thursday night in Manila. However when both teams arrived in the wee hours of Friday morning in Taipei, there was a jubilant welcome.
Dozens of fans wearing NBA jerseys and hats and carrying signs — from toddlers to gray-haired men and women — lined the arrival terminal at Taoyuan International Airport between 3 and 4 a.m. local time to cheer and wave and just get a glance at the stars who will play for the first time in Taipei on Sunday.
Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers were received warmly. But it was the Rockets’ entourage, led down the hallway by Lin, who raised the level of excitement to a din as they moved — at first sleepily — through the crowd.
Lin jerseys and photos and signs and giant-sized cutout heads were everywhere. Fans jockeyed for position to snap photos and reached out with basketballs and notepads, pleading for autographs.
“Harden! Harden! Harden!” they shouted at the All-Star guard even as he walked with a hood over his head, almost covering his beard.
James Harden of the Rockets strolled through the terminal laughing and smiling at the scene, breaking into roaring laughter watching one fan who kept sprinting at breakneck speed ahead of the Houston group in to order take more photos.
“Man, it’s three in the morning. Don’t have a heart attack, dude!” Harden said.
Center Dwight Howard was more than conspicuous in his red long sleeved shirt and the squeals of joy went up to a higher level as he smiled and waved.
Just before turning the corner that led to the immigration desk where the group would clear customs, Howard pulled Harden aside. They chatted, the Howard nodded and said, “I’m gonna do it.” Then the two Rockets broke away from the security personnel guiding them and returned to the barricades to sign autographs and have photos taken. The crowd surged forward thrusting pens and photos.
Even as some fans tugged gently at his arms, Howard kept on beaming his wide smile. He happily signed anything that was put in front of him, even using a flourish to put his name on a No. 12 Lakers jersey.
“So now we really know,” Howard said, “this is what they meant by Linsanity.”