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SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) — The Bulls take on the New York Knicks Monday night, and that, of course, means a new NBA favorite is coming to the United Center.
Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin took the world of sports by storm in February. In advance of his appearance at the UC, CBS 2’s Susanna Song spoke to one of Lin’s childhood friends who lives in the Chicago area.
While Lin may be the biggest deal in the NBA right now, for Roger Chang – who watches from his home in Skokie – he’s an old friend too.
“I’ve grown up with Jeremy and his family. I’ve known them for about 15 years,” Chang said.
Chang and Lin often played pickup basketball games in the Bay Area in California, where they grew up. Making a career out of basketball seemed to be of interest from an early age.
“I remember Jeremy always saying, like, ‘I’m going to drink milk, and I’m going to become really tall,” Chang said. “Because, you know, his parents were short. He didn’t really have the genes.”
As late as his sophomore year of high school, Lin was only 5 feet 3 inches tall and skinny.
“Pretty soon, his body caught up to his talent level,” Chang said.
Now, Lin has become more than a favorite for headlines using the term “Lisanity.” He is a worldwide sports sensation, and the buzz of basketball – sort of reminiscent of a man Chicagoans know well.
Chang says Lin dreamed of playing like Michael Jordan, but getting to that point hasn’t been easy.
“It was a really, really difficult time for him, to be cut twice in the beginning of season and to be sent to down to the D League,” Chang said. “It’s demoralizing for any athlete.”
But now years later, Lin has come full-circle, about to play a team that symbolizes his hero.
Faith has also always been important to Lin. He and Chang met at a Chinese Christian church in the Bay area.
“Win or lose, whether he plays 4 minutes or 40 minutes a night, if he can carry himself in a manner that is pleasing to God, he feels like he’s done his job,” Chang said.
Even with all the attention, Chang says he’s proud that Lin has kept his integrity, humility and faith.
The Knicks have been faltering lately, which has lessened the hype surrounding Lin. But he still has an enormous following.
And of course, Chang will be at the game Monday night, rooting for Lin.