It is exhilarating to read of the emergence of Jeremy Lin as the Knicks starting point guard. Lin ( 6-3, 200) is a Taiwanese -American who has followed a most unusual path to the NBA and it is uplifting to see how he has overcome stereotypical perceptions and fulfilled his NBA dreams through hard work and sheer persistence.
Lin is the son of two engineers from Taiwan who emigrated to America in the seventies. Though he was a high school star in Palo Alto, he did not get a scholarship offer from any Division I college.Finally , he wound up going to Harvard which offered him a guaranteed spot on its basketball team but not a scholarship; the Ivies don’t give out athletic scholarships.He thrived at Harvard , excelling in most statistical categories and leading the Crimson to some notable wins . I remember seeing him on TV and being impressed by his game though I thought to myself ” How good a basketball player could a Harvard guy be ? ”
College ball was not an easy time for him .Spectators at away games peppered him with racist comments such as ” Wonton Soup” , ” Open your eyes ” and ” Go back to China “. Playing through it all , he made the All-Ivy first team in his junior and senior years . However, he was not picked in the NBA draft , the talent scouts no doubt put off by the fact that he was an Asian American and that too from an Ivy League school. After all even though there have been a few notable Ivy Leaguers from the Ivies ( Bill Bradley, Jin McMillan, Rudy Larusso, Geoff Petrie) , no Harvard grad had made it to the NBA in more than 50 years .
Not willing to give up, Lin tried out for several NBA teams but while they appreciated his basketball smarts and his hard work , they felt his outside shot was lacking and doubted that he would be able to succeed at this level. Among the teams that passed him was ” my” team , the Los Angeles Lakers, who saw his promise but were unwilling to risk giving him a guaranteed contract for half a million. Instead they gave $16 million for four years to Steve Bake and $500, 000 contracts for their second round picks , Devin Ebanks and Derek Caracter, none of whom have lived up to expectations.
Lin knocked around the NBA Developmental League , playing for the Reno Bighorns , biding his time before he was finally picked up by the Golden State Warriors . He played most of the last season with them but was cut this year and failed to make it with the Houston Rockets before landing on the Knicks. Even on the Knicks , he might have languished on the bench had it not been that injuries to the other point guards forced Coach D’Antoni to give him a shot. The rest of the story is well-known . Thrust into the rotation as the starting PG , Lin scored over 20 points and handed out 8 assists a game in each of his first three games as a starter. The numbers don’t tell the whole story. I watched some of the Knicks game against Utah on TV and Lin was simply electric , penetrating , dishing to the big men for easy baskets and hitting his outside shots. More than anything else , he made the game fun to watch. Seeing him in action, one couldn’t help wondering how everyone could have discounted his abilities.
Of course , I realize that it’s only three games that he’s shown his talent. They could very well be a flash in the pan though I don’t think so. Lin has too much desire , too many smarts not to succeed . He may or may not become a star but he will be a solid player and I , for one , will be rooting for him. Partly , I will be doing so because he is Asian -American but mostly it will be because of the sort of person he is. He is the polar opposite of the typical spoiled , selfish, ball-hogging NBA player who has tremendous physical skills but not much else. Lin , however, has worked for everything he’s got and plays the game the way it is meant to be played . Perhaps , NBA talent scouts should not focus so much on metrics , vertical leaps and athletic ability when they evaluate prospects.
Lin also seems to have a good head on his shoulders. At Harvard , he graduated with a degree in Economics and maintained a 3.1 GPA while starring on the basketball team and that is no mean feat. Not having the security of a guaranteed contract until the Knicks signed him up for $800, 000 , he has been bunking with his brother , Josh Lin , a dental student at NYU.( ” He has his own couch” , his brother cracks). I hope he makes it big in the NBA but even if he doesn’t , I know he will be a success. In fact, he already is .