Jeremy Lin, Faith, and Ethnicity

An Interview with Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is widely recognized as one of best point guards in the NCAA, and a top prospect for the NBA.  Having attended Asian-American churches and fellowships for much of his life, in this second part of the interview (read part one here) Lin reflects on the overwhelming support he's received from the Asian-American community, the importance of his heritage, and how he needs to play, nonetheless, for God. 

Lin was interviewed in his dorm room at Harvard University by Timothy Dalrymple.

Video Question: Articles about you tend to focus on the story of your father and his passion for basketball.  How has your father shaped the way you approach the game in faith?   

For most of your life, you have belonged to Asian-American churches and fellowships. Do you draw some of your strength and inspiration from them?

I definitely feel their support and their prayer, and I am very, very grateful for it. It’s overwhelming at times. I’m blown away by it, and I’m still happy that people support me like that. But I’ve struggled with whether it should give me extra motivation to play. From my experience, I’ve realized that I can’t play for anybody else, because I don’t think that’s how the game should be played.

Last year, when the media attention was starting to grow around me, I felt as though I had to play well just to please everyone else. It was a great burden, and it took the joy out of the game for me. See, the truth is that I can't even play for myself. The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God. I still don't fully understand what that means; I struggle with these things every game, every day. I'm still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give the game up to Him. It's a challenge, but thankfully I'm learning more and more.

Still, much of the media attention focuses on the fact that you are not just a basketball player, but an Asian-American basketball player.  Is that a large part of the way you think about yourself, as well? 

It definitely is a major part of my identity.  But I don't see it as my whole identity.  I belong to other groups as well.  My basketball friends are largely non-Asian.  I don't like to only associate myself with one group exclusively.  But I do feel like the Asian-American community is a big part of my identity, and has been since my childhood.

Do you feel that you bear the pressure of tens of thousands of young Asian-American males, who are hoping that you will help to shatter the stereotype? 

I don't feel the burden, just because I think at this point I'm not playing for others.  That might sound rude, I guess, but it's the truth.  I'm not working hard and practicing day in and day out so that I can please other people.  My audience is God. 

At the same time, I understand that there are kids who will look up to me, and I have a duty to be a godly role model.  So in some sense, I don't play for them, but in another sense I do try to carry myself in a way that reflects God's image. 

Yet you would be pleased if your success in the college -- and hopefully the professional -- ranks helped to shatter negative stereotypes of Asian males?

I would be pleased. Absolutely, I would be pleased.

Video Question: What advice would you give to a young athlete who wants to grow in his faith and pursue his athletic dreams at the same time?


Read the first part of the interview here

Also see Patheos' new Faith and Sports Portal for more stories of faith and sport.

For more articles like this, see the Evangelical Portal, or the series on faith and gymnastics produced by Timothy Dalrymple. 

3/4/2010 5:00:00 AM
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  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.