Yao Ming attempted to sign Knicks point guard sensation Jeremy Lin to play for his Shanghai Sharks during the NBA lockout, but was unsuccessful, two league sources said.
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Lin, who scored 20 points as the Knicks beat the Timberwolves Saturday night, 100-98, has had a close bond with Yao since playing in the former Rockets star’s charity basketball games in Taiwan and Beijing in August 2010.
Yao, who retired as an NBA player in July because of chronic foot injuries, owns the Sharks, a team he once played for. Yao also has started his own wine label and has embarked in politics, recently named to a powerful political advisory committee.
Following his historic 38-point outburst against the Lakers on Friday night, Lin revealed he is close to Yao and communicates often with the 7ft 6in (2.29 meters) Chinese basketball legend, mostly by text message. Yao lives in Shanghai.
"Yao cares for [Lin’s] well-being,” one person familiar with the relationship said. "He’s that kind of guy.”
Lin did not follow the lead of other NBA players who left for China during the lockout — Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, to name a few. Had Lin not been claimed by the Knicks on Dec. 26 after being waived by the Rockets, there was a chance he could have wound up with Yao in Shanghai.
Following the rout of the Lakers, Lin, the first Chinese-American to play in the NBA, said, "I actually talk to Yao after every game. He’s taken me out to eat when I’ve seen him. He’s obviously a role model, big brother and mentor to me. We keep in touch all the time."