Jeremy Lin is my favorite basketball player.
There are so many things to like about this guy, and I’ll outline why I’m such a big fan in this post.
Either way, it’s been fun following his career up until now, and I’ve been thrilled to pieces over his signing with the Golden State Warriors. Granted, he still has to perform well, but even making it this far is quite an accomplishment. I have little doubt that he’ll do everything he can to take his game to another level.
I remember first hearing about him after Harvard beat BC, who had just beaten the #1 ranked UNC Tarheels. After that, I googled him and found out that Lin was the California State Player of the Year and State Champion in Division II basketball in California. I won’t go into why this is such an impressive accomplishment as a high school player, but this is a very BIG deal considering the talent that comes out of California from the prep ranks.
Shortly after the BC game, I remember having a conversation with David Park, my brother in law and former Harvard player himself, about the case for Jeremy playing in the NBA. Fun times.
After that, I tried to catch as many games as I could, and thanks to this guy – poor man’s commish – I was able to follow Jeremy’s path to the NBA quite closely. Poor Man’s Commish did an amazing job of making the case for Jeremy as an NBA player, and I’m so grateful for all of his efforts.
I watched as many games as I could (Harvard games are hard to find), saw him play live at Columbia (and even met his mom), watched the entire NBA draft just to see if Jeremy would get drafted, then watched every single one of Jeremy’s summer league games on TV.
I’m so proud of the guy.
Anyhow, here’s why I like the guy so much (besides the obvious fact that he’s Asian American).
1) He’s a committed Christian – Check out this interview and this one. Jeremy wants to be a pastor in an urban community one day. Now, this alone is something that gets me excited, but I think there’s something about his game, his effort, and his accomplishments that seem to reflect so much of what we believe as Christians. I’ll expound on this later.
2) He’s been an underdog most of the time – To some degree, it’s hard to argue that a Harvard grad has been an underdog, but when you consider Harvard basketball vs the rest of the NCAA, it’s a true underdog story (even if he went to Princeton, more folks may have seen him as a more legit prospect).
– Jeremy was not offered a Division 1 scholarship out of high school, even though he was the State Player of the Year. That’s crazy. I don’t think that’s ever happened before (I’ll leave the research to poor man’s commish). Some suggest it’s because he’s Asian-American… it’d be hard to argue otherwise, considering he played in arguably the best state when it comes to prep basketball. Btw, his team (Palo Alto) beat Mater Dei, a perennial powerhouse in Southern California.
– Jeremy played for Harvard, and he helped turn them into a winner. Again, Harvard has never been known for its basketball program, and yet they were on the cusp of the NCAA tournament this year. He played well against bigger named schools (he even dropped 30 points on UCONN and Jim Calhoun said he could play with anybody), but…
– Jeremy went undrafted – Even though Jeremy put up some record breaking numbers at Harvard and led them to winning seasons, he went undrafted because people didn’t think he could play at the NBA level. Most folks counted him out because of his perceived lack of athleticism.
– Even on the summer league team, Jeremy had to claw for minutes – The Mavs had two former first round picks playing ahead of him at guard (Beaubois and Jones), and while they’re great players, Jeremy still had to show his game in limited minutes. Beaubois battled some injuries, which allowed Jeremy to get more minutes than normal against John Wall.
I love that Jeremy has persevered so much, even despite all the setbacks and disappointments. I haven’t even mentioned the racial slurs and all the stereotypical stuff.
And yet, Jeremy hasn’t backed down, even against the #1 pick in the draft. Just watch these highlights and watch Jeremy’s fearlessness. The kid doesn’t back down from anyone.
Now, it’s a bit ridiculous to say that Lin is better than Wall or that he’s even with Wall in terms of production. But, I think it’s fair to say that Jeremy is just as strong a competitor as Wall.
I think this says something about Jeremy’s faith, a fighting spirit that is confident yet humble, working hard to beat the odds.
3) Jeremy’s type of game beats so many stereotypes – First, one would expect a guy from Harvard to have a specialist game of some sort, a la Chris Dudley, rebounding machine from Yale.
Moreover, one would expect an Asian American to be a dead-eye shooter of some sort, making up for a lack of athleticism or size.
But Jeremy’s a slasher/playmaker. He plays great D, has an unorthodox shot, and is fearless going to the rim.
And he plays so hard – his motor is constantly going.
I love it.
4) He loves basketball and has excelled in it – This point relates more to what I think about him being a Christian athlete. Too many times Christians believe that to excel at anything outside of Bible Study, prayer, etc is to be a less devoted follower. And yet, here’s someone who identifies first with Christ, and still has the guts to work hard and excel in a game he loves.
Christians often pit the two as mutually exclusive – excellence in faith and excellence in work. But Jeremy is a model that it’s okay, and even ideal, to be excellent at both, and that by doing so, excellent work is a spiritual enterprise.
5) He went to Harvard – This story would be different if Jeremy went to UNC or UCLA. That’s the typical route to the NBA, and it would allow people to validate his athletic prowess alone.
But for Asian Americans, Jeremy would be a weird anomaly, someone who was a freak athlete and that’s it.
In a weird way, Jeremy going to Harvard allows more Asian Americans to relate to him because he didn’t go on a basketball scholarship – he just went to the best school where he was accepted as a student and where he thought he could play ball.
Now, it’s crazy that Jeremy went to Harvard of all places, the second best school in the country (to Berkeley), but the fact that Jeremy enrolled in a school and went about pursuing a dream (instead of having it handed to him) is really remarkable.
I think Jeremy’s typical as an AA who goes to college but really would prefer to do something else with his life rather than econ, law, or medicine.
Most AAs know other AAs similar to what I described – going to the best college I can, but secretly wanting to do something else with my life.
The difference with Jeremy is that he’s doing that “something else” now.
And so we all celebrate as if Jeremy was one of us.
Because he is…
… but with the faith, courage, and determination to pursue “something else”.
**being 6’4″ 200 lbs certainly helps too!