Pro basketball star Jeremy Lin first captured the nation's attention with sensational play in early 2012 that earned the undrafted player out of Harvard a spot in the starting lineup of the New York Knicks.
Recently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin, 26, wasted no time putting his Christian faith into action with an appearance last Friday morning at a skid-row mission to hand out gift bags to the needy.
But not everyone at skid row's Midnight Mission recognized the Lakers' newest star.
"Which one's the basketball player?" one woman asked, gesturing to Lin and the two shorter, older men standing beside him. A dozen more skid-row residents filed by without so much as a backward glance, according to a report in the LA Times.
Lin officially joined the Lakers last Thursday after a trade with the Houston Rockets. Sports pundits say Lin, who was born in nearby Torrance, California, will help the Lakers tap the city's huge Asian demographic—the largest in the nation, the Times reported. Lin also brings his well-known willingness to live out his Christian faith to his new city and team.
The Lakers organization partnered with the Midnight Mission to hand out 1,000 gift bags containing soap, razors, toothpaste, deodorant and hand wipes as part of their charitable-giving efforts. The Midnight Mission often enlists athletes, celebrities and companies to help hand out food at lunchtime on skid row, but Thursday marked the first time that the Lakers had gotten involved, according to the Times report.
Lakers guard Nick Young and shooting guard Xavier Henry also appeared at the event Friday, though they left before lunch—a tray of baked beans, salad, meat stew over rice and a Greek yogurt that everyone kept trying to trade. Leftovers were put in plastic bags to eat on the go.
Lin had just returned from a trip to Taiwan, where his movements are heralded by front-page headlines, and he is mobbed most places he goes.
"Nah, this is how it always is in America," Lin said when asked if he was bothered by the lack of attention he received at the event.
Lin said he had never been to skid row before. He was "keeping his eyes open" for new directions for his Christian-based charity, the Jeremy Lin Foundation, Lin told the newspaper.
Another version of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times.