Jeremy Lin, Race, and Proving Oneself

I posted a few days ago that I preferred for Jeremy Lin to play on the Rockets.

With that said, I was shocked to see the Knicks decline to match the offer.

I think what’s been so shocking to me is the recent analysis from some Knicks fans and other pundits (Stephen A Smith and Frank Isola come to mind) who have dismissed Lin’s ability, competitive spirit, and motivation (money).

Doubting Lin’s longevity, I can understand.

Doubting Lin’s consistency over 82 games and playoffs, I can understand.

But please don’t tell me the kid can’t play (can’t go left, questionable jumper, turnover prone, etc), lacks heart, and is driven by money. 

It’s baffling to me when people ignore the data.  Lin played well last year.  He had one bad game against the Heat, and consider it was only one bad game with every team gunning for him.

The data shows that Lin is a better player than Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd right now.

Listen, even I was a doubter of Lin.  Coming into the league, I thought at best he would be a solid backup for the right team.  I likened his game to Kyle Lowry (former point guard of the Rockets, ironically enough) when he first came into the NBA.  I would have been thrilled if Lin just got regular minutes on a team.

But this past year, Lin continued to prove me wrong.  He proved everybody wrong.  Time and again, Lin showed he’s a high caliber player in the NBA, capable of being elite and even carrying a team at times as the lead guard.

For 26 games, Lin was a terrific rookie (practically speaking) point guard last year.

We call some guys can’t-miss after 25 college gms. But 25 starts vs NBA comp. proves nothing? Y consider #Lin fraudulent, not promising?

Of course, I needed to confirm whether Lin’s play was all hype with no substance. So what did I do?  I looked at the data.

And the data is that Lin really did play well and elevate the performance of his team and teammates.

When it comes to money, Lin wasn’t the one who went fishing for more money from the Rockets – it was the Rockets who pursued Lin with a bigger deal.  To suggest that Lin was devious in upping the salary is silly considering it was the Knicks who publicly laid out their cards too early, thereby giving a chance for the Rockets to up their offer even further.

I did not expect such a strong smear campaign to come from “reliable Knicks sources”.


As an Asian-American, I’ll admit that the criticism toward Lin has stung a bit more.

As odd as this may sound, the Lin bashing felt personal, as if people were pushing around my kid brother.

Even though I wanted Lin to go to the Rockets, I’m actually disappointed at the Knicks and some of the media.

I’m mad enough that I was tempted to write a blog post in comic sans font claiming that Jeremy Lin would win a championship before the Knicks do.

Alas, I don’t know how to switch to comic sans on this blog.

It’s hard for me to believe that race isn’t involved in the critique of Lin’s game or his motives, especially when people ignore the data or choose to believe unnamed sources after Jeremy himself has come out and described the free agency process for himself.

So far, no Knicks source has come forward to claim the truth about how the negotiations went down.

So the smear campaign has begun.


Whether it’s true or not that Lin’s game and motives have been dismissed because of his race, I realize this is the burden of being a minority in this country – the haunting suspicion that a slight or critique is due to one’s race.

The African-American community certainly feels this more acutely when there are slights (which many of us are so unaware of), but I think it’s also common for any minority.

It’s hard NOT to be sensitive and reactive to perceived slights.

But what’s harder, perhaps, is to receive those slights, push them away with firm yet gracious hands, and then go gang busters in proving the naysayers wrong.

At the end of the day, that’s probably the best that we can do when we are slighted, though.

We can either get too angry or get too soft, but somewhere in the middle is the way of redemption, the way of the cross and resurrection.

And so we absorb the criticism, maintain our identity as one whose Center is true, share our perspective in non-reactive ways, and then prove naysayers wrong with furious truth and love.

This is how redemption comes, I believe.

Furious truth and love… … in this case, on the basketball court.

Jeremy, I’m still rooting for you as hard as ever.


12 responses to “Jeremy Lin, Race, and Proving Oneself

  1. “I’m mad enough that I was tempted to write a blog post in comic sans font claiming that Jeremy Lin would win a championship before the Knicks do.”

    This line really cracked me up. I’m really not a basketball fan and know very little about sports, but a lot of your post rang true to me. In the end, I’m actually glad that Jeremy is leaving. I honestly think that the Knicks are a cursed and badly run franchise like the Mets. He’ll probably be better off elsewhere.

    Also, I need to leave you with this parody song about Jeremy:

  2. haha, great video. i know. i’ll be rooting hard for the rockets!

  3. I feel similar slights all the time in the music industry, but I hesitate to vocalize because many times I feel that I’m being paranoid or unable to accept the possibility that I’m not good enough and that was the right outcome. I hate that feeling of constant suspicion. I wish for myself, for Jeremy and for all minorities out there that we wouldn’t have to deal with that.

  4. Until Lin is not the exception, but the rule, this is the kind of nonsense we’ll be dealing with. I hope he continues to maintain his integrity and makes decisions based in being grounded in his truth.

  5. I was just thinking about this yesterday. Slowly going through phases and anger didn’t hit until last night. Was watching his press conference and saw he red jersey and he highlights of him in a Knick uniform. And read more on what happened (see espn’s 6 part article). And i got angry. I love the Knicks and was so angry I’d no longer see him in that great uniform. I was so angry at melo and Dolan and the team that I hoped they would lose for the next couple years. And then I was angry that I’ve been made to feel that way about my favorite team. It would hurt to follow another team. But then I thought of how he has responded. How he answered questions on that espn 1on1 interview. How he didn’t respond to all those racist Facebook posts. And I imagined him praying about it and talking to family and showing grace. And I thought about how I should at least try to do the same with my feelings.

  6. the data *show* that Lin is better.

  7. I can help you with the comic sans font.

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