Jeremy graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Economics, making him the very first NBA player to have come from the prestigious school since Ed Smith. He was also among the players that had the fastest growing popularity in the game, going from being a benchwarmer to the starting line-up in the quickest amount of time. And while most NBA players got their place in the league through an athletic scholarship of some sort in their school, Jeremy’s entry to the NBA was pure hard work; no scholarships and no drafts.
Jeremy Lin is also the first Chinese-American basketball player in the NBA. And in spite of the numerous racist remarks that have been thrown at him, Jeremy seems to have the amazing grace and humility to shrug these off and not let the critical statements throw him off his game. In many of the interviews that are done with him, he admits that while the racist remarks against him do hurt and sometimes piss him off, he somehow manages to let it simply pass in one ear, and out the other.
But the most intriguing thing about Jeremy is the public confession of his faith in Jesus Christ. In a game that is widely dominated by people who often declare themselves atheists, Jeremy stood up and showed the entire world that there are still those who are not ashamed of expressing their faith. Jeremy’s public declaration of his faith became a part of the catalyst that caused all the other Christians in the sports world to do the same thing and proudly declare their faith.
Jeremy Lin is a second generation Chinese-American (or Taiwanese-American). He was born in the city of Los Angeles in 1988, the middle son of Lin Gie-Ming and Shirley Lin. His older brother’s name is Josh, and his younger brother is Joseph.
Jeremy’s parents were born in Taiwan, but decided to move to the United States to seek a better life for their family. Lin Gie-Ming, Jeremy’s father, originally came from the Changhua County. His ancestors were immigrants from the mainland China, who arrived in Taiwan (which was known during that time as Formosa) in the early years of the 18th Century.
Shirley Lin’s family, on the other hand, were members of the nationalist Chinese movement who immigrated from the Zhejiang province to Formosa in the late 1940s to escape the communists who took over the mainland. Her mother was a devout Christian who instilled the values and principles of living a faithful life to her daughter.
Upon their arrival in the United States, Gie-Ming and Shirley first settled in the state of Virginia, where they both went to universities to further pursue their studies. After graduating and getting several successful job experiences, Jeremy’s parents decided to move to the West and worked in the city of Los Angeles, where Jeremy was born. They then finally settled in the smaller city of Palo Alto, just along the San Francisco Bay Area.
Growing up in the suburbs of Palo Alto, Jeremy was exposed in many of the things that would greatly influence his life in the future, the most prominent his passion for basketball. It is not surprising that Jeremy would go to love the game, since his father was an avid fan of basketball as well. At a very young age, Jeremy already had a lot of experience in playing basketball due to his father often bringing him and his brothers to the local YMCA to get a lot of practice.
Aside from basketball, Jeremy’s family would also go on fishing trips often. In fact, they would often tease their mother Shirley for being able to catch more fish than her husband and sons combined.
Like any other Chinese family, Jeremy’s love for basketball was balanced by his passion for studying. An excellent student herself, Shirley taught Jeremy at a young age that education is one of the most important aspects of life; having an excellent educational background opens a lot of doors of opportunity to succeed in life. Because of this, Jeremy not only became good at playing basketball – he also became an excellent student, often praised by his teachers for having high remarks. In an interview made with him, Jeremy related how there was one time that his mom called Jeremy’s professor and told him to ensure that Jeremy was being serious on his studies or she would stop letting him play basketball!
A Devout Christian
But according to Jeremy himself, out of all of the things that was established in him by his parents, he is most thankful for his parents instilling in him a love for God. Both Ming-Gie and Shirley were devout Christians, and they made sure that their children knew why.
According to interviews made with Jeremy many years later, it was his faith in God that helped him cope with the racism that hounded him all his years of growing up. He recalled how even when he was young, he already started experiencing the discrimination from the people around him because of his race. And as he grew up, the discrimination and hatred amongst races grew deeper, even to the point that gang wars were common in where he went because the two races did not like each other.
Jeremy was often the target of ridicule for his Chinese heritage; there were times where he was not allowed to join school teams because he was not “in”. This sometimes caused Jeremy to birth hate on the inside of him, but every time he would be reminded of the story of Jesus, and how he was able to show love to the very people who crucified him, the hate would simply fade away.
Although Jeremy was excellent in both his studies and in basketball, most of his peers and elders recognized his academic achievements far more than his athletic abilities. Basketball at that time was dominated by the black and white community, and there was very little regard for people from other races. In spite of this, Jeremy still continued to practice until he became a master of the sport. During his senior high school years, he managed to be a part of the Palo Alto High School (his alma mater) basketball team.
He quickly rose among the ranks and became captain, leading the school to have a 32–1 record, even beating the nationally famous Mater Dei High School basketball team with a score of 51–47 for the California Interscholastic Federation Division II title. By the time Jeremy graduated from high school, he was named as the Northern California Division II Player of the Year and first-team All-State, and averaged 15.1 points and 7.1 assists in all his games.
Encouraged by his parents and peers who were very impressed by his performance, Jeremy decided to pursue his basketball career while ensuring that he was still able to go to a good school so he could finish his studies.
Getting into Harvard
Jeremy sent applications which included his resume and a video of his high-school basketball highlights to various Ivy League and Pacific-10 schools such as the University of California in Berkeley and Los Angeles, as well as Stanford University. However, almost all of the Pacific-10 schools that he applied to preferred to have him as a ‘walk-on’ player instead of granting Jeremy an athletic scholarship. Jeremy then turned to two schools that guaranteed him a spot on their basketball teams – Brown University and Harvard University. However, both schools did not offer athletic scholarships.
Fortunately, there was someone who took interest in Jeremy after seeing that his physical attributes and academic status perfectly fitted the school’s requirements – this person was Bill Holden, the associate coach of Harvard University. While initially unimpressed with Jeremy’s performance (even going as far as telling Jeremy’s high school basketball coach that Jeremy was a division III player), Holden was surprised by Jeremy’s performance on the next game, which he described as “more competitive”. Jeremy’s “killer instinct” worked so well for him that he was able to drive to the basket at every open opportunity. Jeremy eventually chose to study in Harvard University, majoring in Economics and playing for the school’s basketball team.
In his first year at Harvard University, Jeremy struggled in adjusting to both his play and of his teammates. In fact, he was described by most of the coaches as the “weakest guy on the team” for not only being small (in comparison to the other players), but also for being “too soft”. In spite of receiving criticisms such as this, Jeremy continued to practice and make himself better at the game. By his sophomore year, his efforts have paid off – after averaging 12.6 points, Jeremy was named as that year’s All-Ivy League Second Team.
Jeremy continued his rise to fame by his third year, averaging 17.8 points in a game and becoming the only NCAA Division I player who was included in the top ten rankings. One of his most famous games during his junior year was the team’s victory over the Boston College Eagles, who then recently defeated the top ranking North Carolina team.
By his senior year, Jeremy became a number-one contender for the All-Ivy League First Team for his performances on the court. He was also included as a finalist for both the Bob Cousy and John R. Wooden awards, and was invited to play in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
Jeremy soon attracted national attention after his team played against the Connecticut Huskies, who were at that time ranked twelve in the top teams of collegiate basketball. His spectacular performance on the game got him thirty points (which was a career-high for him) and earned him the respect of many sports analysts who were observing the game, such as Jim Calhoun (a hall of famer coach for the Connecticut Huskies), who described Jeremy as someone who could play for any team that he joins.
By the time Jeremy graduated from college, he had already set numerous records in the game, including the most points in all of the games that he has played. Jeremy also amazingly did well in his academics, receiving his bachelor’s degree with high remarks.
Journey to NBA
After leaving university in 2010, Jeremy decided to pursue basketball professionally by trying to get drafted for several teams in the NBA. Years ago, during his visit to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Jeremy met with a well-known sports agent named Roger Montgomery, who made a promise to Jeremy to get him in the NBA after his graduation.
However, the NBA did not pick Jeremy in the 2010 draft, which caused a lot of disappointment in the budding athlete. This did not stop Jeremy however, from finding ways he could enter the NBA. He joined several summer camps to further improve his play and to get drafted by teams, the most notable was the Dallas Mavericks, where General Manager Donnie Nelson took care of Lin and focused a lot of his effort to make Jeremy better.
Lin did improve tremendously, and during the summer league games, he managed to attract the attention of everyone; he outplayed the people’s favourite John Wall, and began gathering a lot of supporters. By the time the league was completed, Jeremy had already received offers from the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers, and his favourite team, the Golden State Warriors.
Eventually, Jeremy decided to join the Golden State Warriors and signed his two-year contract with them in July 2010. After the signing, the team held a press conference for Jeremy, which his coach remarked as “surprising” to see for an undrafted rookie.
During his debut, in the exhibition opener of the Golden State Warriors which was held at the Oracle Arena, Lin received the loudest ovation and was cheered on by the crowd every time he touched the ball. In an interview made with Jeremy, he recalled how this experience really touched him, and how it will stay with him forever. He started to gather a great number of fans, which were largely comprised of Asian Americans.
Although there were high expectations of Jeremy a superstar player, it was something that was far from his mind. In fact, he was not looking to immediately become very popular, just wanting to enjoy the game and being paid well for his efforts.
Through his entire stay with the Golden State Warriors, it seemed that Jeremy did have his wish – the team did not put Jeremy in the spotlight, most of the time having him play for lesser games. In spite of this, Jeremy never got discouraged or dismayed about his situation. He accepted that he needed to improve and took more time in practicing and bettering his skills, especially his jump shot moves.
Jeremy soon improved very well that he started getting further attention not just by his team, even overseas. In September 2011, Jeremy played in the Chinese Basketball Association for several games and was named the Most Valuable Player. He even caught the attention of Yao Ming, a former NBA superstar, who unsuccessfully tried to get Jeremy to join the CBA.
In December 2011, Jeremy transferred to the New York Knicks after he was claimed off waivers by the team as a back-up for players Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis. Initially, the New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni never thought highly of Jeremy; oftentimes, he never considered letting Jeremy play unless he had no other players to place in the court (and even thought of releasing Jeremy before his contract got signed).
However, during a string of defeats that almost sunk the Knicks down to disgrace, D’Antoni finally decided to let Jeremy prove himself. On January 28, Lin surprisingly turned the losing game around for the Knicks, and thus started what many now call the “Linsanity” era.
After finally being let free to play as he pleased, Jeremy became an instant basketball superstar. To test his consistency in games, D’Antoni placed Jeremy on the starting line-up, to which Jeremy never disappointed: the next few months saw a string of victories for the New York Knicks against hard core teams such as the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks (in the game against the Mavericks, USA Today commented how no matter what kind of defensive tactics they threw against Jeremy, he always found a way to maneuver through them to bring the Knicks to victory), and the Los Angeles Lakers, which many thought would put Jeremy to the real test.
After a stunning defeat against the New York Knicks, Kobe Bryant said of Jeremy:
“Players playing that well don't usually come out of nowhere. It seems like they come out of nowhere, but if you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. It probably just went unnoticed.”
Jeremy did experience a number of defeats during his time with the New York Knicks. During the first round of the 2011-2012 NBA season, the New York Knicks faced off against the Miami Heat, which was led by its veteran players LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Realizing the threat that Jeremy posed on the court, Miami Heat focused the entire defense on Jeremy, causing him to play poorly and committed eight turnovers. Jeremy described the event as both ‘flattering’ and ‘terrifying’, as if he was being surrounded by hawks.
In March 2012, Mike D’Antoni left the New York Knicks, leaving the team without a coach. They then turned to Mike Woodson, who soon joined the team and became the Knicks new coach. Under Woodson’s leadership, Jeremy saw lesser games, partly due to the coach’s racist attitude. In March, Jeremy suffered a knee injury which cause him to be absent for the entire season.
After recuperating, Jeremy was suddenly shunned upon by the team that once saluted him for leading them through various victories. Although Jeremy became a restricted free agent by the end of the year’s season, he was named as the “most popular player in a decade” of the NY Knicks by the New York Times.
Compelled to find another team to join, Jeremy soon looked at his options. After a few negotiations, he was taken in by the Houston Rockets for a salary of around thirty million dollars for three years. Although he initially struggled in his first few games with the Rockets (largely due to the injury he experienced a few months earlier), he soon got used to playing with the team and started to rise back up, leading the team into several victories.
Throughout his professional basketball career, Jeremy was a victim of racist remarks and comments. In fact, the reason why he was the least picked for teams was largely due to his Chinese/Taiwanese heritage; basketball was mostly dominated by black people, and the only other person of Chinese heritage that was able to make it successfully in the NBA was Yao Ming.
Enduring Stereotypes in ESPN and Fox Sports
Stereotypes were very common, and most people saw Jeremy as unfit to become successful in professional basketball. Another issue was his height – Jeremy stood at six feet three inches – which was very small for an NBA player. His Asian heritage was often a target of very unwelcome and racial remarks from sports commentators of ESPN or Fox Sports, who often taunted Jeremy for not fitting in because he was Asian.
Although those who criticized Jeremy were the outspoken ones, they did not exceed the number of those who supported and defended Jeremy all the way. In fact, after Floyd Mayweather Jr, a famous boxer, made a sarcastic remark on Jeremy’s on-court performance, NBCNewYork.com immediately released a statement defending Jeremy. Jeremy’s attitude to facing criticism is so amazing; he somehow manages to see them as compliments, and he has even stated that there were some statements made against him that caused him to feel more confident. In an interview, Jeremy said:
“I know a lot of people say I'm "deceptively athletic" and "deceptively quick," and I'm not sure what’s deceptive. But it could be the fact that I’m Asian-American. But I think that’s fine. It's something that I embrace, and it gives me a chip on my shoulder. But I'm very proud to be Asian-American and I love it.”
But through all the years of success and failure, Jeremy remained faithful to God and close to his family. In fact, one of the things that he was most known for was his public confession of his faith, which he immediately did during the press conference that followed his worldwide debut in the NBA. His faith in God was the reason why Jeremy never felt stressed or forced to impress anyone. In an interview made with him regarding his style of playing basketball, Jeremy stated:
“I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore.”
Jeremy’s public confession of faith has earned him widespread fame amongst the Christian community. He was often used as an example of courage and fortitude in various churches, and was even met by many well-known born again pastors such as Joel Osteen, who pastors the largest church in the United States.
Currently, Jeremy continues to go further in his career, experiencing victory after victory. His tandem with co-superstar James Harden is widely becoming known in the NBA World, and is bringing a lot of attention back to the Houston Rockets. Aside from his basketball career, Jeremy has also started going into philanthropy with the Jeremy Lin Foundation, which he established to help youths achieve their dreams in life.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The Jeremy Lin Foundation
- Workshop Houston
- Yellowstone Academy
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Won the All-Ivy League First Team
- 2010: Won the All-Ivy League First Team
- 2011: Named as the ABA Club Championship MVP
- 2011: Included in the Top Eight Influential Chinese-Americans by Vivid Magazine
- 2012: Included in the Top 100 Most Influential People of the World by TIME Magazine
- 2012: Received the ESPY Award for Best Breakthrough Athlete
- 2012: Received the Social Breakout Player of the Year Award from NBA
- 2012: Received the NBA Rising Star Award
- 2012: Received the EPIC Award