In the history of sports, winning and talent normally transcend race, but the same hasn’t held true for Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks. His meteoric rise to fame didn’t come easy and Lin had to earn every opportunity he could get because they were few and far between.
Lin doesn’t look like the majority of players in the NBA. When most people think of an NBA player, they stereotype them as either African-American or Caucasian with an instance of a Hispanic player here and there.
But “Linsanity” wasn’t only the first case of a Chinese- or Taiwanese-American dominating an NBA floor, it was the first case of a Chinese- or Taiwanese-American stepping onto an NBA floor period.
The most telling evidence of a double standard resulting in Lin’s race first began with his attempts to get into a college to play basketball. Even though he was one of the best high school players in the state of California, Lin wasn’t offered a single scholarship from any Division I team in the NCAA.
Even Lin himself believes his race played a role. “I’m not saying top-5 (basketball player in) state automatically gets you offers, but I do think (my ethnicity) did affect the way coaches recruited me,” Lin said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2008. “I think if I were a different race, I would’ve been treated differently.”
In college, Lin put up an impressive resume with Harvard, but didn’t nearly get the respect he deserved. I know it’s often that a college player’s school and division can be held against their draft stock, but you would think scoring 1,483 points, 487 rebounds, 406 assists and 225 steals would at least get you drafted in one of the NBA draft’s two rounds.
Undrafted, Lin finally got his chance when he signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2010. He barely got on the floor and averaged less than three points per game. He was later released without even a second thought, again despite a resume that showed talent in his past.
The Houston Rockets were the next team to take a chance. However, he never played a single game for them and Lin was released before the start of this season.
Then, it was fate that brought Lin to New York. Not only were the Knicks battling injury in the beginning of the season, they were in a desperate search for a point guard to fill the void left by Baron Davis and his injured back. Nobody in-house could get the job done and Lin was the next man to get a try.
Lin would finally get his opportunity on February 4th against the New Jersey Nets when then-coach Mike D’Antoni inserted him into the game. Lin dropped 25 points on the Nets and thus began his historic rise to fame.
He single-handedly carried the Knicks while both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were out due to injury at the same time. In fact, one could argue the Knicks wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him. The Knicks looked doomed at 8-15 before Lin took over the team.
The numbers Lin put up in his first several career starts were unmatched in the history of the NBA. It was almost as if J-Lin was catching up for all the lost time he spent undeservedly on the back end of the benches of NBA teams.
While the story of Jeremy Lin is still being written, there’s no doubt the Knicks’ point guard had to overcome adversity for something he had no control over in the first place.