There is no question that Jeremy Lin is an extremely talented athlete. He had an excellent series of games to bring his effort to a peak of stardom on an international level. With this seemingly rapid rise to fame, people were often claiming that he came from nowhere. This is clearly shown as quite the opposite in the Linsanity documentary, showing that he went through a lot of trials and triumphs in the making of his New York Knicks last line starting showcase. Kobe Bryant is quoted saying, “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.” This statement is the truest statement to ever be said about Jeremy Lin and in the course of this post, I will focus on various aspects of his career that were directly affected because he is an Asian American.
It was clear that Jeremy Lin was incredibly skilled and capable of pulling Linsanity off regardless of what race he is, but it was also clear that he would not have been put in the position he was in with the New York Knicks without being overlooked in general. This overlooking can often be attributed to his race. When Jeremy Lin was performing in High School, he was the star player on a team that was televised. Where I am not an expert on televised High School sporting events in 2005, this is clear evidence that his team, and his ultimate victory for Palo Alto, was noticed by someone. There’s no question that high school basketball scouts were capable of noticing Jeremy Lin, and at least he should have been on the radar for multiple schools with his outstanding performance in the championship alone. The fact that he played so well, and received only one collegiate offer is shocking. His stats for high school clearly beat out many other players, yet no offer was to be found. This could be because he is Asian American, but this is, in reality, the start of the overlooking in a long career of it.
In Linsanity, Jeremy Lin’s mother talks about how certain people would claim a player is better than Jeremy, and then when Jeremy beats them, they just assume the player isn’t very good and never assume that maybe Jeremy is a good player. This would lead to a true dynamic where no matter how good Jeremy would play, he would only be able to put people below him and never bring himself higher on the radar. Jeremy Lin started 3 out of 4 years in his time at Harvard. His skill was recognized and rewarded within the basketball administration. When it came to the draft, of course he was not picked up. But the key here is, his talent was clear enough that he could get put into a summer league and work for a spot. Not until he was eventually picked up by the Warriors was there hope.
Now this video shows the marketing approach after Linsanity, but what’s important is how marketable he was before. After his time with the Warriors was shortly lived, he moved on to the Houston Rockets. There is not a bone in my body that does not believe he was picked up by both of these teams because he was Asian (specifically Asian, being American plays little part in this choice). Where I do not have definitive proof for the Warriors, I will speak on the evidence I have on the Rockets. Yao Ming was on the Rockets in the early 2000’s and ticket sales took a major increase and the NBA became incredibly more popular in China (Yo! Yao!). Ever since, the Houston Rockets have made clear efforts to increase sales to the Asian American community (along with the rest of the NBA). With the Rockets picking up Jeremy Lin as a 6th string point guard, there is clearly no use of him here besides as a marketing strategy. That’s why there is no surprise he was offered the most money by the Rockets to return after Linsanity happened. The profit on him being Asian American was ripe for the picking in this context. For further Asian American marketing, the Houston Rockets have even sported Lunar New Year jersey’s earlier this year (picture and link below).
Now, the marketing and overlooked played in Jeremy’s favor up until his moving to the Knicks. Jeremy was able to train for a year and play in the NBA for an entire year. He was pushed to his limits and overlooked until the last possible moment of truth where everything was able to come together and he was able to play extraordinarily well for a seemingly newcomer. No other player of any race would be put in the position Jeremy Lin was put in, because they would have noticed him earlier, no question. He was able to stay under the radar until his skills were developed as equivalent to a first round pick or a 2 year veteran. He was marketed for being Asian American (jersey sales before even starting), and that gave him opportunities to prove his worth and train before being in the primetime spotlight. I think it’s also important to mention that Linsanity was capable of being widely and easily marketed with the outstanding number of puns too.
How does this reflect day to day life? Well it shows that people of non-traditional races in specific events will often be looked over. More specifically Asian Americans in the NBA. There have been numerous all-Asian basketball associations in this country for a long time. While being overlooked ultimately paid out big time for Jeremy Lin, it really makes you wonder how many opportunities were missed for Asian American players throughout the NBA and NCAA that never got the chance Jeremy Lin did. These will be stereotypes that, one would hope, Jeremy Lin is clear examples that the lens to see future star athletes should not just be binary, black and white.