ORLANDO -- Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker shared the court together for the first time as NBA players Friday night for the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge.
But they have something more in common than that: They first became household names in New York City; Walker as a blue-chip high school prospect coming out of Rice High School in 2008, and Lin, of course, as a member of the Knicks.
After the game, in which Walker's Team Shaq lost to Team Chuck, 146-133, the Bobcats' rookie point guard reflected on his time developing into a Big Apple phenom in the CHSAA to what Lin is doing now in the NBA.
"He's playing great basketball and New Yorkers love it when people are playing great for their city, or just playing hard," said Walker, who played in the same backcourt as Lin on Friday, scoring 10 points; Lin had two. "They definitely embrace him. I'm happy for him. He deserves it a lot. You can tell that he just works extremely hard at his game to get where he is today."
When Walker was asked about seeing all of the blue and orange around the Amway Center, in honor of Lin, he was blown away.
"So many jerseys [laughs]," Walker told ESPNNewYork.com. "No. 17. Lin. Linsanity shirts. It's crazy, but, man, it's a cool experience."
Walker also couldn't believe that even with all the Linsanity -- even with Lin getting his own pregame press conference with roughly 175 media members in attendance -- the global interest hasn't changed the Knicks point guard as a person.
"He's not even like [the Linsanity]," Walkers said. "He's just so humble and he doesn't care about. He's just playing basketball. Of course, I'm pretty sure he's happy when he's playing well, when he's getting all this attention, but he's a humble dude."
Lin and Walker's Rising Stars teammate, Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers, also spoke highly of Lin. Thompson, like Walker, played high school ball in the Greater New York area (St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J.), before transferring to Las Vegas' Findlay Prep. The rookie power forward, who was born in Toronto where a big Asian population resides, said more people of a similar ethnic background are playing basketball in the city because of Lin's success.
"He's giving guys hope," said Thompson, who scored 20 points. "When [the Knicks] played the Raptors on Feb. 14 [in Toronto], it was full. It's definitely great for basketball. He's really brought the Asian community back into basketball, because once Yao Ming left, I don't think there haven't been as many Asians playing.
"He's a great story, first and foremost. He's embraced New York and New York's embraced him. He's going to be playing in this league for a long time."
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