(Reuters) - Jeremy Lin will have a "profound" impact on basketball in China and encourage future generations of Chinese players to chase their NBA dreams, commissioner David Stern has predicted.
Lin, a Taiwanese-American whose roots make him highly marketable in Asia, burst onto the scene last season as an undrafted and overlooked Ivy League student, briefly igniting the flagging New York Knicks with his explosive play.
His breakout campaign was cut short in March when he suffered a season-ending knee injury and New York bid farewell to "Linsanity" in July by trading him to Houston, where Chinese All-Star center Yao Ming played from 2002 to 2011.
Eight-times All Star Yao, who retired last season, opened up the world's most populous country to the NBA and was the first international player to be top pick in the draft.
"I think Lin's impact will be profound," Stern told the China Daily, adding that while at 6-foot-3 Lin could not be considered a giant in the NBA he had proven players could thrive in U.S. basketball through skill.
"He has proven to smaller players that they have the ability to develop their skills and to play at the highest level of the sport. This is a very important statement.
"People have said you had to be so tall to play in the NBA. But that was never true. We have many great players who are not large."
Stern, in China for exhibition games between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, said it was only a matter of time before Chinese-born players were again on-court in the NBA.
"Jeremy Lin is going to enable young Chinese players to have a unique dream," the 70-year-old said. "That is a profound opportunity for Chinese basketball and the NBA to develop.
"The Chinese basketball players and their families are becoming more sophisticated about the road to the NBA, whether it is going to high school, summer camps, college or through the Chinese system.
"We are going to see Chinese players and their families work out how to make a career in the NBA."
Stern also unveiled plans to expand the Chinese market over the next 15 years, after first tapping into it in the 1980s.
"The most important thing is to develop basketball in China," he said. "I don't believe Yao Ming is going to be the last great Chinese basketball player. I believe he will only be the first."