Asian celebrities shoot hoops, give back in basketball showdown

Before he was announced as a superhero, Simu Liu was already doing his part to make the world a better place.

In partnership with the Canadian Chinese Youth Athletic Association, Liu was in Markham, Ontario, on July 13 to take part in the inaugural CCYAA Celebrity Classic — raising $15,000 for the Jeremy Lin Foundation. 

The Chinese-Canadian actor was connected to Lin through CCYAA, which eventually led to the celebrity basketball game.

While the NBA star wasn’t there himself, there were many Asian celebrities and influencers who stepped on the court — including Liu’s Kim’s Convenience co-star Andrew Phung, Fresh Off the Boat star Hudson Yang, Wong Fu Productions founder Philip Wang, YouTube stars The Fung Bros, Andrew and David Fung, Comedian Linda Dong of LeendaDProductions, and other performers, singers, and personalities.

Photo credit: Rosanna U

The event sold out in six hours.

“It shows the thirst and demand in Canada from people who don’t get to see these (influencers),” said Clement Chu, the president of CCYAA. “One of our mandates is advocacy, and a part of the reason we’re doing this is that these guys are pioneers in respective spaces. They can share their stories, and they are doing some really neat things.”

There’s also something that draws people to great stories and underdogs — or those under-represented.

That’s why Jeremy Lin’s journey from a no-name to a dramatic rise of stardom during “Linsanity” in 2012 still resounds, especially for those in the Asian community. Now, even as a household athlete and a newly crowned NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, his foundation still fights for the underdogs, and advocates for youth leadership development.

But the work to recognize and help young Asian basketball players began long before Lin arrived in Toronto. Started in 1995 by Chu, the non-profit CCYAA aims to provide young Asian-Canadians with a community to play basketball and sports.

The organization offers unique services, with about 75% of it focused on youth programming, and impacts more than 2,000 participants annually. This includes basketball programs for children starting at three years old, or special events such as the first-ever Celebrity Classic.

“We do it because we believe it’s beneficial to the community,” Chu said. “It’s more about passion for us. We never want to close the door on anybody, we want to be inclusive, and we have the ability to speak a second language to kids who are immigrants. We have that subtle nuance that addresses Asian community.”

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