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HOUSTON – Jeremy Lin launched a charitable foundation then lost to his boss in ping pong.
The Houston Rockets point guard hosted a gala Thursday night, the eve of All-Star Weekend, to unveil a foundation that will benefit three Houston organizations helping underprivileged children. Current NBA players Chandler Parsons, David Lee, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Steve Novak and Joakim Noah and retired Rockets center Yao Ming were among those who attended the event, held in the atrium and concourse at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
"I feel like this was always something that I wanted to do," Lin said. "I didn't know I could do it at this level and be able to have a foundation and do an event like this."
The 24-year-old Lin is a year removed from his meteoric rise to international stardom in New York, the phenomenon dubbed Linsanity. Houston stunned the Knicks by signing Lin, a restricted free agent, to a three-year, $25 million contract.
Lin is averaging 12.6 points and 6.2 assists and has guided the Rockets to a 29-26 record this year. Houston currently holds the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. While the media spotlight isn't as intense in Houston as it was in New York, Lin still enjoys worldwide popularity. As his fame has blossomed, Lin wanted to start directing his global appeal toward a worthy cause.
"I've learned to understand what it means to have a platform and how to use that the right way," Lin said. "I'm still learning what that means every day. I feel like this is a step forward in being able to use the attention that we (NBA players) are given from society to be able to bring it upon other people in need.
"I figure, if you've got a lot of cameras around, you might as well say something worthwhile."
Lin greeted guests on a red carpet, posed for pictures and even briefly showed off his musical skills on a piano. He ended his night by challenging Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in ping pong on a table that was a centerpiece to the gala. Morey won two of the three games they played, and the two shared a laugh and shook hands afterward.
The foundation will benefit Workshop Houston, the Yellowstone Academy and the city's Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR). Lin studied local organizations and chose those three based on the work they've done and their level of financial need.
"We believe in what they've been doing and we've done a lot of homework on their pasts, their programs, their kids," Lin said. "We feel like these three are doing phenomenal work, and would really benefit from a boost."
Lin, the NBA's first American player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, was raised in northern California and says he would like to expand the foundation's reach to that area. Beyond that, Lin hopes the foundation can eventually gain traction internationally.
"Somewhere, years down the road, I definitely want to make an impact within third-world countries and for our foundation to be able to do work in a lot of different areas across the world," he said. "This is definitely the first step."