The height of Jeremy Lin’s career may have been some of his most challenging-even depressing.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Lin talked about the darkest moments during Linsanity and the privilege he had to witness the first year of Stephen Curry’s career up close.
Lin rose from the back of the bench during his brief stint with the New York Knicks in 2012 to a starting guard who suddenly found himself splashed on the cover of Sports Illustrated two weeks in a row.
With nowhere else to turn after a string of losses for the lowly Knicks, coach Mike D’Antoni decided to give his little-used point guard from Harvard his shot.
Lin scored 25 points in his first game as a starting guard and brought the Knicks a rare victory.
The hot streak would continue, highlighted by a game-winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors with less than a second left in the game.
He then took it to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 38 points.
Yet, the sudden stardom for Lin took a toll on him.
“There were also just the expectations of the world, almost turning me into some type of superhero. I became this phenomenon and I felt like I lost my humanity in the middle of it,” he told Sky Sports.
He said the paparazzi then not only hounded him but his family and friends as well. As he put it, he “didn’t like a lot of the side effects of Linsanity.”
Linsanity quickly took an ugly turn.
“I started to understand racism at a better level, at a deeper level. For so long, I tried to run from being ‘the Asian basketball player.’ Whether it’s overt racism, or the microaggressions, or the systemic injustice, or all of the different things – there are so many layers to it,” he said.
Those layers then took him to another level, when he began to embrace what Linsanity meant to Asian Americans and to the larger community.
“This is a story that will be told for years and years and years and that has shattered so many stereotypes, and so many boxes that society has tried to put on minorities,” he said.
Linsanity would quickly come crashing down when he suffered an injury that sidelined him. His coach would then be fired and Lin would never play for the Knicks again.
He has since bounced around from team to team, his last being with the champion Toronto Raptors where he became the first Asian American to win an NBA championship, albeit in a limited role.
Since then he hasn’t been able to land with another team and has turned his attention to playing for the Beijing Ducks in China.
Yet he perseveres, perhaps because he saw Steph Curry’s career intimately during the superstars first year in the NBA.
At that time, he said Curry displayed a great confidence and endured the tough love of a coach, Keith Smart, who may not have fully appreciated Curry’s skills.
The two played together with the Golden State Warriors during both their first year in the NBA.
“I was with him my rookie year. The coach that we had didn’t believe that much in Steph and would bench him a lot, get on him, yell at him a lot, was just really tough on him,” Lin recalls.
He remembers Curry routinely being benched during key moments in the fourth quarter, but none of that seemed to phase Curry who continued to play his game.
“There’s just this aura that he had of ‘There’s no shot I can’t hit. I can hit and I can catch fire at any point. If you give me one shot and it goes in, you might be in trouble the rest of the night.”
Curry never gave up and now the two-time Most Valuable Player has four NBA championships.
Lin has seen lower lows than Curry, but continues to persevere-perhaps inspired by a 6’2″ guard.
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