“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.