Thirteen days ago, before the Sports Illustrated cover and the Tim Tebow-like treatment on ESPN and the sheer Linsanity of it all, you'd have needed to look high and low for someone who knew about Jeremy Lin.
Or you could've just looked inside the gym at Classen High.
That's where Oliver Ting has been most winter afternoons the past four years, practicing with the Classen boys basketball team, trying to follow in Lin's footsteps.
“He was sort of my hero,” the senior forward said, “even before he was the savior of New York.”
During the past two weeks, Lin has become the new Superman in Metropolis. He used to be an afterthought on the Knicks bench, a free-agent acquisition who was so uncertain of his basketball future that he crashed on his brother's couch.
Now, you can't turn on SportsCenter unless you're ready to stomach a heavy portion of the Linderella story.
The fairy tale started two Saturdays ago with a 25-point, seven-assist performance against the cross-river rival Nets. It grew when Lin scored 38 points against Kobe and the Lakers. And darned if it didn't add another chapter Tuesday night when Lin hit a game-winning three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left against the Raptors.
“After his first big game, I sort of crossed my fingers,” Ting said. “‘Can he do it twice? Can he do it three times? I'm not sure.'
“I was just hoping he'd get a starting job.”
Lin has gotten that and so much more, including an adoring legion of Asian-American fans. They have come out en masse everywhere that Lin has played since that first big performance.
But listen to Ting and several of his other Asian-American teammates, and you'll realize that the Legend of Lin is older than you might think.
“It's kind of funny,” Classen guard Minh-Duc Pham said, “because it's like everyone just discovered him.”
Lin has been a known commodity among most of Classen's eight Asian-American players since his college days at Harvard. He landed at the Ivy League school, which awards no athletic scholarships, after being turned away by Stanford, Cal and many others.
Ting remembers a friend in middle school giving him a newspaper article about Lin. It explored how much harder it had been for him to even make it to the Division-I level and how difficult it would likely be for Lin to make it in the NBA.
Would teams even take a chance on him?
That story motivated Ting.
He started trying to find broadcasts of Harvard games, which was difficult to impossible in Oklahoma City. But even if he couldn't watch Lin play, he read as much as possible about him on the Internet.
Ting felt a connection to Lin. Both have Chinese ancestry, both are second-generation Asian-Americans, and their upbringings were similar. School was first. Basketball was second.
“In American cultures, it's dream big if you want to be a basketball player,” Ting said. “If that's what you love, go for it.
“But in Asian cultures, your chances of becoming a basketball player are so low, it's not a career path. It's a hobby.”
Granted, other players of Asian decent have made it in the NBA. None was bigger, neither literally nor figuratively, than Yao Ming. The larger-than-life center who retired last year created a phenomenon in his homeland of China and among Asian people around the world.
But for young players like Ting, it was difficult to relate to Yao.
“He's 7-6,” Ting said, laughing.
Saying he wanted to be like Yao would be like black kids saying they wanted to be like Shaq or white kids saying they wanted to be like Dirk. Might they grow to be 7 feet tall? Sure. But the likelihood was slim.
Asian-American players haven't had someone who they could truly aspire to be like.
“It's much easier to look up to him as a role model and sort of imitate what he's done,” Ting said. “I think Jeremy Lin is kind of the picture of American culture and Asian culture coming together.”
Who knows what it could mean for future generations?
“Just because one person does it, it doesn't necessarily make your chances better, but until this point, it hasn't really been done at all,” Ting said. “I think for a lot of Asian kids, it will be great motivation.”
It sure is for the Asian-American kids at Classen.
While most of them are thinking about futures after high school that don't include basketball, they still find inspiration in Lin.
“It gives me more of a boost,” junior guard Dustin Hoang said. “It kind of helps me to work hard. If you read about Jeremy Lin and how much he worked — each time he got dropped, he worked harder and harder — it kind of makes me think if I work hard, maybe I can do something like that.
“When people underestimate me, maybe I can prove them wrong.”
Junior forward Kevin Bui said, “He had a chance, and he took it. Always keep fighting, and keep hoping that you have an opportunity.”
That's the lesson that Oliver Ting has taken from Jeremy Lin.
He isn't thinking about playing college ball, much less trying to make it to the NBA, but he really wants to a career in medicine. Go to Duke or Emory. Major in biology. Become a doctor one day.
And while it might seem crazy to some people, Lin is a role model for Ting.
“It sort of speaks volumes to what you can accomplish outside of what you're expected to do,” he said of the Legend of Lin. “You can do things people didn't think you would do.”
Who knows how long the Linsanity will last. Don't the late-game heroics and the twenty-something points have to stop eventually?
Even if they do, the phenomenon will continue to have impact for many years to come.