When Jeremy Lin’s Life Was Poised on a Pivot

When Jeremy Lin’s Life Was Poised on a Pivot May 16, 2012

Over the next several days, I am going to publish the Introduction to Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity (available in paperback and Kindle editions) in installments. If you’re a follower of this blog, a friend, or a fan of Jeremy’s, or even if you just love an inspiring story of overcoming against impossible odds or want to show your children a true role model, please consider purchasing the book for yourself or as a gift.


When the New York Knicks’ #17 came off the bench late in the first quarter against the New Jersey Nets on the first Saturday of February 2012, not a single person in Madison Square Garden could have predicted what was about to happen.

Jeremy Lin had a small but faithful following. Some supported him because they were fellow Harvard survivors, some because of his outspoken faith, some because of his ethnicity, some just because they loved his scrappy and fearless style of play. But they did not see this coming. No one did.

Even Jeremy himself had been tempted to despair of his NBA career. In his torturous rookie year with the Golden State Warriors, he had lost the joy of the game. In front of his hometown Bay Area crowd, it had seemed that the only times he left the bench were for demotions to the Developmental League. He wrote in his journal after Christmas in 2010 that he had lost his confidence and felt ashamed of his failure and humiliation. He even wrote on New Years Day, 2011, that he wished he had never signed with the Warriors. Perhaps, he thought, it had been a mistake to believe in the first place that he could succeed in the NBA.

Yet here he stood in a Knicks uniform. He had managed to bear up under the pressure. He had managed to believe for another day. Unrecruited out of high school, undrafted out of college, unretained by the Warriors, unwanted by the Houston Rockets, unguaranteed with the Knicks, Jeremy was due in a couple days to be unloaded from the roster. Yet still he stood. He had survived–through the broken ankle, through the insulting disinterest of the Division I college coaches, through the racial epithets that greeted him at away games, through the stereotype that Asians are not athletic enough, through the draft that never was, through the hardships of his rookie year, and through the anguish when he was cut by the Rockets on the day before Christmas.

He had persevered. He refused to believe that he was destined for a nasty, brutish and short career as the worst player on the worst teams in the league.

Jeremy had been raised in a Chinese American evangelical church in California. His favorite New Testament passage, from chapter five of Romans, describes how suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. He knew the Knicks might cut him within the week–teams had to cut their players or guarantee their contracts by February 10. But Jeremy had learned much from the school of suffering. All the things he had endured had shaped his character, and his strength of character gave him hope. He told himself before the game, If I go down, I’m going to go down fighting.

Yet neither Jeremy nor his fans, his family or coaches, the experts and analysts and professional opinion-mongers–nobody watching that game would have guessed what was about to happen. They could not have foreseen it because it was simply unprecedented. That’s not hyperbole. It’s a mathematical fact.

In that indivisible particle of time–that moment when he stood on the sideline with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter–Jeremy Lin’s fate was poised on a pivot. Everything was about to change. He was about to skyrocket from the lower ranks of the perpetually underappreciated to the pantheon of the most admired athletes in the world. His name was about to spill from the newspaper presses throughout New York City onto magazine covers around the globe and to the top of the world’s largest search engines. His images was about to fly to the farthest corners of the Internet, to shirts and posters and printouts on popsicle sticks in Madison Square Garden and onto television sets from the Bronx to Beijing. Jeremy adjusted the orange “In Jesus’ Name I Play” bands around his wrists–and stood on the precipice of a mind-boggling, stereotype-smashing, season-saving, record-breaking, God-glorifying eruption that would capture the imagination of the world.


Tune in tomorrow for the next installment, or go ahead and buy the book.

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