I’m a big fan of Christian athletes.
I root for them. I want them to succeed.
I want to see better role models in the culture. We can sure use them these days.
I’ve always rooted for Tim Tebow, and through all of his trials, tribulations, and injuries, I still believe we haven’t heard the last from him.
Which brings me to Jeremy Lin, the basketball player. Basketball was my favorite sport growing up, and I logged thousands of hours. You had to peel me off the court to get me to quit.
Jeremy Lin has a love of the game like I had. Likely much greater than mine to reach the level he has.
If you’re a fan of basketball, or even just a routine follower of the news, you likely remember Jeremy. Remember “Linsanity”?
In 2012, Lin, the first Chinese or Taiwanese player in the NBA and an outspoken Christian, took New York City and the world by storm, coming out of nowhere, it appeared, to turn the Knicks around, while playing like no newcomer had ever played in the National Basketball Association.
And now, just seven years later, it appears that Jeremy may be out of the league entirely, as no NBA team has taken a serious interest in him. A recent viral clip of Lin in Taiwan breaking down in frustration over this made its way around the Internet.
Yes, I know that Jeremy just won a title with the Toronto Raptors, but he rode their bench and was not a major contributor to their success. Jeremy is aware of that more than anyone.
So what happened to Jeremy Lin?
[Editor’s Note: Hat tip to Wikipedia for much of the following details]
Jeremy was born in Torrance, California and raised in a Christian home in Palo Alto. He’s the son of Taiwanese immigrants to the U.S. Gie-Ming taught his sons to play basketball at the local YMCA. His mother, Shirley helped form a National Junior Basketball program in Palo Alto where Jeremy played. She was criticized by her friends for letting Lin play so much basketball (my parents let me play a ton too), but she let him play the game he enjoyed.
Lin had a stellar high school career, leading his Palo Alto High School team to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division II state title. He was named first-team All State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year.
I’m making a point in listing his high school accomplishments. This guy didn’t come out of nowhere. People love the “overnight success” story. It rarely happens that way.
And yet, Stanford University, sitting virtually across the street from where Lin played in high school, failed to recruit him. He was ignored by most every other college too. Lin finally chose Harvard, but Ivy League schools don’t offer scholarships so he received none.
At Harvard, Jeremy again performed well, and was a two-time unanimous All-Ivy League First Team, setting numerous school records.
But once again, Jeremy’s skills were ignored. No NBA team chose Lin in the 2010 draft. Why was he continually overlooked? Some say it’s because he’s Asian in a black-dominated sport, and many people just can’t wrap their head around a man of Oriental background excelling in basketball.
I think they may have a point.
So Jeremy made his own way into the NBA by first playing for the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team in Las Vegas. Donnie Nelson of the Mavericks was the one general manager who offered Lin an invitation to play in the Summer League. “Donnie took care of me,” said Lin. “He has a different type of vision than most people do.”
Thank God for the Donnie Nelsons of this world. This is a pattern I’ve seen with Jeremy Lin’s career—when people believe in him, he excels. That happened to me while playing high school basketball.
After playing well in the Summer League, Lin was surprised to receive offers from several NBA teams, and ended up signing a two-year deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors.
Being a groundbreaking player of Taiwanese descent, the San Jose Mercury News wrote that Lin “had something of a cult following after his signing.” The San Francisco Bay area, with its large Asian-American population, celebrated his arrival.
Lin received the loudest ovation of the night in the Warriors’ home exhibition opener when he entered the game in the fourth quarter. “That really touched me. It’s something I’ll remember forever,” Lin said.
But three times during the season, Lin was assigned to the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. He played well there, and again was boosted by a coach who believed in him. Lin credited Bighorns coach Eric Musselman with “helping him regain [his] swagger.”
Meanwhile, Lin improved his weak spots. He abandoned the shooting form he had used since the eighth grade. He also increased his strength, doubling the weight he could squat and almost tripling the number of pullups he could do. He also increased his bodyweight, adding fifteen pounds of muscle. He added 3.5 inches to his standing vertical jump and 6 inches to his running vertical jump, and improved his lateral quickness by 32 percent.
Lin’s drive to improve his physical abilities reminds me of the tireless work Tim Tebow has done throughout his careers in football and baseball in the quest to be the best.
It also reminds me of the extensive training I did in high school to get stronger, faster, and jump higher. It paid off for me, as I became an extremely effective defensive player, my “claim to fame” being holding California Player of the Year and future NBA player (and referee) Leon Wood to 19 points in one of our encounters.
Lin was eventually waived by the Warriors, picked up by the Houston Rockets, and waived by them too. He ended up playing a few games in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Enter the New York Knicks… And Fate
On December 27, 2011, the New York Knicks claimed Jeremy Lin off of waivers. The coaches placed him fourth on the point guard depth chart—that’s pretty far down the list.
Nevertheless, Lin continued to arrive first at practice and leave last, intensely studying game film and working with coaches to improve his footwork and judgment. He was assigned to the Erie BayHawks of the D-League, but after an impressive performance, was recalled by the Knicks.
Lin was so fearful of being cut again, that he asked a chaplain at a pregame prayer service to pray for him. If he were released again, Lin would consider playing in Europe, returning to the D-League, or taking a non-basketball job.
After the Knicks squandered a fourth quarter lead in a February 3 loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Mike D’Antoni—in desperation according to experts—decided to give Lin a chance to play. Lin had played only 55 minutes through the Knicks’ first 23 games, but he unexpectedly led a sudden turnaround of a struggling team that had lost 11 of its last 13 games.
And Lin played spectacularly during this stretch. “Linsanity” was born, though the name itself wasn’t coined until a bit later.
Injuries hit two of the Knicks premier players, Carmelo Anthony and Amar Stoudemire. What to do? Knick coach D’Antoni said he intended to ride Lin “like freakin’ Secretariat.”
Basketball trainer David Thorpe said in hindsight that such a statement of confidence so soon by a coach was “incredibly rare,” and likely gave Lin the confidence to continue to play aggressively despite making mistakes.
I remember how important it was for me to have the confidence of coaches I played for. I just didn’t have it on my own. Looking back, I can see I didn’t sense that my father had confidence in me. All children need it, and I believe it is especially true of boys.
On February 14, with less than a second remaining in the game, Lin made a game-winning three-pointer in the Knicks’ 90-87 win over Toronto. The basket so amazed the Lakers (who were watching on television) that veteran player Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) ran past reporters shouting “Linsanity! Linsanity!” and waving his hands above his head.
Needless to say, the name stuck. It was a fairy tale. But all of that came to an end, because the Knicks made a huge blunder…
In March, with reported pressure from the star Jeremy replaced (Carmelo Anthony), the team replaced coach D’Antoni with Mike Woodson, who ran fewer pick and rolls (where a teammate blocks the path of a player on the opposing team, and then “rolls” to the basket to receive a pass for an easy shot). Woodson also ran more isolation plays. This was flat-out crazy, as these were the kinds of boring, clogging plays the Knicks HAD been using with Anthony and others BEFORE Jeremy Lin started his amazing run, turning the team’s fortunes around.
In the immortal words of Dr Phil: “What were you THINKIN’?!”
Later that month, Lin complained of a sore left knee, and an MRI later revealed a small meniscus tear. Lin opted for knee surgery, and missed the rest of the regular season.
The Houston Rockets made Lin an offer, but the Knicks elected not to match it, surprising many observers.
Thus began Jeremy Lin’s run through several teams, with varying levels of success depending on the coach doing these things:
#1: Letting Lin initiate the offense.
#2: Demonstrating confidence in his abilities.
#3: Spreading the floor out, giving Lin plenty of room to run the “pick and roll,” drive to the basket, and find open players near the basket.
#4: Keeping “ball hog” players from destroying the flow of the offense, who often passed to Lin as a last resort with only seconds left to beat the shot clock.
See From Linsanity to… Nobody? What Happened to Jeremy Lin? for a video summary of Lin’s rise and fall.
Ill-timed injuries were a factor too.
Jeremy Lin has never regained the magic of his “Linsanity” year with the New York Knicks in 2012. It’s shocking to me that the NBA has given up on this man, when he’s still only 30 years old and injury free at the moment.
This reminds me of the golf world giving up on another part Asian player by the name of Tiger Woods. I felt the same way then about Tiger, believing that one day he would come back to greatness.
If Jeremy is not given another shot in the NBA, there is talk that he may return to the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) again. Personally, I hope that doesn’t happen. I want to see Jeremy Lin in the NBA! But let’s see what God has in store.
He has shown—at least in relatively small doses—that he has the potential to be one of the best players in the NBA.
I’m a bit puzzled really, as to what’s going on.
I understand that Jeremy has been overlooked due to what may be considered an unconscious prejudice against Asian basketball players. It’s hard to imagine this happening to a black, or even a white player.
But I think even more than prejudice against him for being an Asian in a black-dominated sport, I believe there’s an anti-CHRISTIAN prejudice that’s more at work.
I saw this with Tim Tebow. Even though he won a Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football while winning two BCS National Championships; and in the pros winning a major playoff game for the Denver Broncos, Tebow was never given his due by football analysts.
There’s an amazing, underreported story behind that playoff game Tebow won for Denver: It happened exactly three years to the day after he decided to wear the Bible verse John 3:16 on his eye black. That wasn’t the only numeral “coincidence.” He threw for 316 yards, ran for 3.6 yards per carry, completed passes for an average of 31.6 yards per pass, the Broncos’ time of possession was 31.6, and CBS’ overnight ratings for the 4th quarter were… 31.6! What are the odds?!
For I will honor those who honor Me, but those who despise Me with be cursed.1 Samuel 2:30
Tebow is a fine human being by anyone’s standards, yet his accomplishments have been belittled by many. Why? Because he’s an outspoken Christian.
Never underestimate the power of hatred and jealousy to undermine the careers of practicing Christians.
I believe that like Tiger Woods, and Tim Tebow (through one platform or another), Jeremy Lin will rise again. He has the talent, the drive, and I believe the character inside him to do it. Jeremy showed weakness when he broke down in Taiwan. And his confidence may be a bit shaken up. Good. It’s time for him to develop his own confidence, and stop relying on the confidence of a sympathetic coach.
In other words, to get to the next level, and to be an effective Christian example, it’s time for Jeremy’s character to be perfected.
“We went through fire and water, but you brought us to the place of abundance.”Psalm 66:12
Jeremy Lin wants to make an impact in this world. He already has, and I believe he will continue to do so. He started a foundation “to love and serve children and youth, by providing hope, empowerment, and leadership development.”
He has said, “I do think my purpose is to play basketball, play well, and play for the glory of God.”
There’s a bigger game than basketball at play here. God is working with Jeremy Linn, I have no doubt. I don’t know what He will do with him or through him, but I’m going to keep watching to see.
I hope you do too.
One thing I am left with, that is more clear than ever to me, is that we all excel at something. And taken out of our zone, we don’t excel. In fact we often fail miserably. We are all born with at least one talent. It’s up to us to use it.
Everyone has heard of the famed radio host Rush Limbaugh. Early in his career, he was fired from Pittsburgh station KQV in 1973. He was reportedly told by management that he would never make it as on-air talent, and should consider going into sales!
Rush eventually got his big break at KFBK in Sacramento over a decade later. He said they allowed him to do the kind of show he wanted to do, and the rest is history—he went on to become the most successful radio host ever.
Jeremy Lin plays a particular style of basketball—fast, aggressive, creative yet controlled—and very fun to watch!— possibly better than anyone in the world. And it can’t be taught, as one of his coaches said.
When he’s allowed to play his style, and where the coach believes in him, the results are amazing! Now to guarantee his success, Jeremy must only play for a coach and team that allow him to play his way.
Each of us has something unique within us that we can do better than anyone in the world. It’s a matter of spotting it, allowing it to flourish, and having confidence in it.
I hope neither Jeremy nor we ever forget this.
To your Health and Fitness,
Patrick Rooney is the Founder of OldSchoolUs.com. Its focus is natural health and independent living. Patrick is the author of GREEK PHYSIQUE: The Simple, Satisfying Way to Sculpt Your Body—Even if You’re Old, Weak, or Broken Down; and is also the creator of Greek Yoga™ and the Greek Yoga for Beginners video. He offers health and fitness coaching in-person in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone, Zoom, and Skype. To reach Patrick, email him at [email protected].