Orlando, FL – The star power that has descended on Central Florida this weekend is pretty impressive.
Checking into the media hotel for NBA All-Star weekend on Friday, I was greeted by a massive banner featuring perennial All-Stars Tony Parker and Carmelo Anthony. Step inside a little further and LeBron James and Kevin Love got some similar love.
The shuttle on the way to Amway Center slowly drove past a massive billboard showcasing Orlando's own Dwight Howard and his famous smile.
The best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather, was in town to host an All-Star party with Howard, while rapper Fabulous played co-host to Anthony for another shindig. Dwayne Wade did it on its own and everyone got the red carpet treatment.
Kevin Durant even hosted a press conference to introduce "Thunderstruck" and no that's not his new sneaker, it's his Hollywood debut described as "a fun and energetic family basketball movie starring Durant as himself, a basketball star that switches talent with a klutzy 16-year-old fan."
Gotta be better than Kazaam right?
So with all that as background -- guess who stole the show on Friday?
Of course, it was Jeremy Lin.
You can blame the New York media or ESPN for overblowing the Lin story all you want but that ignores the interest he has generated, not only in America but abroad.
"I think obviously playing in New York (has accentuated things)," Lin said when talking about his quick rise to fame. "It's a big stage with a big fan base and so there's a lot of media. In terms of platform and media I think that's the best place to be just because they have it all."
Both Team Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) and Team Chuck (Charles Barkley) had open practices for the Rising Stars Challenge during the NBA All-Star Jam Session at the Orlando County Convention Center on Friday afternoon. Nearly every single player and both Hall of Fame coaches were scheduled to be made available to the media. One was held back and given his own press conference at Amway Center before the actual game -- Lin.
"Oh absolutely," Lin said if having his own presser during All-Star weekend was surreal. "Just any press conference on my own in general. Just to be here and see the company and all the players that are here is just -- it's been unbelievable and I'm just trying to take it all in and embrace it and enjoy it every step of the way."
Whenever I attend an NBA signature event, I'm struck by just how much foreign press is on hand. Basketball may always play little brother to football and baseball in the states but it's also the one American sport that exports and exports well.
According to the NBA, this year's All-Star Game will be broadcast in 215 countries and territories and in over 44 languages. Of the 1,800 media types credentialed for the event, 336 are international reporters and they all seemed to be hounding Lin.
To the foreign media I talked with it's all about the rookie's ethnicity and the fact Lin just doesn't look like a "normal" NBA player.
"I think it has something to do with it. I don't know how much," Lin said when asked about that. "But I think just being Asian-American, obviously when you look at me, I'm going to have to prove myself again and again and again. Some people may not believe it."
Already some are pointing to the Knicks' 102-88 loss at Miami on Thursday as the beginning of the end for Lin. The Harvard Product was held to a dismal 1- of-11 shooting performance thanks to torturous defense from Mario Chalmers, Wade and LeBron James.
"I'm just trying to stay focused on basketball," Lin said when addressing the doubters. "I think the difference between me this year and last year is that last year I cared what everybody said and this year I don't really care what anybody says, except for my teammates and coaches. That's kind of the approach I'm taking."
So what is the shelf life of Linsanity?
Well, Lin himself hopes it ends sooner rather than later.
"I'm definitely surprised that people are talking about Linsanity or whatever," Lin said. "I think hopefully as the season progresses, it will go from that to the New York Knicks and hopefully the Knicks can win basketball games. Hopefully we can make a good push after the All-Star break and people will start talking about the Knicks and not necessarily me."