Put yourself in Jeremy Lin’s shoes. Imagine having all your biggest fans congratulating you on winning an NBA championship - but deep down inside, you know that you didn’t earn that ring. Imagine having all your biggest fans asking you what team you are signing with next season because they care about your future - but deep down inside, you aren’t even sure if you’ll be in the NBA next season. Jeremy Lin’s speech is deeper than his prestigious Harvard degree or his $65 million career earnings. It’s about his fans, his faith, and his personal aspirations.
Few players have the fan base that Jeremy Lin does. Being an Asian American and a devout Christian, Jeremy Lin has developed a cult following around the world. It’s like combining Yao Ming’s influence with Tim Tebow’s. He’s an inspiration and role model to millions. Just look at the All-Star voting - Lin consistently finishes in the top 10 amongst guards in his conference, regardless of his play. But being an icon of an entire country and an entire religion takes a toll.
Jeremy Lin is aware of the impact he has on so many communities and he takes full responsibility of it. Out of the kindness of his heart, Jeremy Lin visits Asia every year to connect with thousands of his fans. He meets with fellow Christians, aspiring young basketball players, and ordinary people who turn on the television every night just to watch him play basketball.
But when your career has hit rough patches lately, speaking about your career in front of thousands of people might be the last thing you want to do.
In 2016 and 2017, Jeremy Lin, while in his prime, missed over half the NBA season due to injuries. Yet, after the season came to a close, he still decided to spend weeks across the globe meeting his fans in Asia.
And even after his unfortunate season, his fans were still there to remind him how amazing he is as a player and as a person.
Jeremy Lin bounced back. He worked hard in the offseason to recover from his injuries and got himself ready to play in the following season.
But in the very first game of the following season, Jeremy Lin landed hard on a layup and ruptured his patella tendon. That was it. After one game, he was ruled out for the season. After working so hard to come back from injuries, it all happened over again. But this time, worse.
And yet, he still decided to go visit Asia to meet his fans. Even after one of the lowest points in his NBA career, possibly in his entire life, he decided to speak about it in front of thousands of people. And once again, his fans still reminded him that he’s their inspiration and that he is still their favorite player.
In 2019, this season, Lin found himself on one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference - the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks were a rebuilding team that had no incentive to give a veteran, like Jeremy Lin, any minutes. Despite that, Lin accepted his bench role and managed to put up some of the best 'per 36 min' stats in the league. Through his solid play, he earned his way onto the championship contending Toronto Raptors later that season. Then, after playing great with Atlanta, Lin played the worst he had ever played in his career - all while in one of the most important stretches of games in his career.
And yet, when the season concluded, he still decided to make the trip to Asia. He decided to make the trip even after being benched for the entire playoffs. He decided to make the trip even after striking out in free agency just weeks prior. He decided to make the trip all while being fully aware that his NBA career is on its last leg. He decided to make the trip for his fans.
Do you know how hard it must be to go up in front of thousands of fans and talk about a career that you know might be over? Do you know how hard it must be to go up in front of thousands of fans who look up to you and tell them that you may never play in the NBA again? Do you know how hard it must be to have millions of people that aspire to be you, but you feel like maybe you aren’t deserving. I have no way of knowing if Jeremy feels that way, but I can tell you that many people would feel like that if they were in Jeremy Lin’s shoes.
It’s emotional for Jeremy Lin. And somehow, people are so quick to mock him.
But the truth is: his fans don't care about him being benched. They don't care about him not being on an NBA team. During Linsanity, Jeremy Lin became the favorite player of millions of fans. And 8 years later, he still is the favorite player of millions of fans.
Jeremy Lin has gone through a lot as a basketball player. He only had 2 collegiate offers and neither of them included a scholarship. While most NBA players played for fully-funded basketball programs like Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, or North Carolina, Lin had no choice but to play for a modest basketball program at Harvard. Yet, he still made the most of his opportunity - proving himself against ranked opponents and ultimately becoming as a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award. Despite his stellar collegiate performance in the face of adversity, Lin still went undrafted.
Without a team, Lin had to prove himself in Summer League. Even after getting signed by Golden State, he had to spend time in the D-League to keep his job. And a season later, on the first day of training camp, Lin was waived by Golden State. Then he was picked up by the Rockets. And then he got waived again 12 days later. Then he got picked up the Knicks a couple weeks afterwards to be the 4th point guard on the depth chart.
From high school to his early NBA career, no one believed Jeremy Lin was going to make it.
But Lin proved them wrong with Linsanity. And even after proving everyone wrong, there were still haters. Carmelo Anthony became jealous of a skinny, second year, Asian kid from Harvard who was outperforming him. And just like that, when Lin first began to taste success, he was allegedly ran out of New York by Melo.
In the following seasons since then, Lin has been traded multiple times. He’s been benched multiple times. And he’s been injured multiple times.
It’s been rough for him. But as a role model, Lin has to put a smile on and keep moving on. It seems that every year, life has thrown him a curveball. And every year, Lin has just got back up and kept moving. Even on the court, that’s Lin does that. Fans have arranged video complications of Lin getting aggressively and egregiously fouled. He just walks it off and never complains. He's a role model and is expected to act like everything is okay, even as his NBA career is on its last life line.
In his viral speech, Lin opened up about his faith. He does everything for the God he believes in. He strives to make sure he is a perfect representation of his religious beliefs and morals. He feels like he has done a lot of things right in the eyes of his Lord. Yet, he still continues to suffer on-the-court. That's why he is emotional. It's a personal thing. He's come upon tough times in his relationship with his God. No one can question that because only Jeremy Lin knows where he stands in his faith.
His money, his Harvard degree, all those superficial things couldn’t mean less to him. Jeremy Lin has said that his biggest goal in the NBA is to be the player he knows he can be. It’s not about securing the bag. And when he’s injured for two straight seasons in a row while in his prime - his goal is put in jeopardy. When he does everything he can to come off a season-ending injury and then struggles in the biggest games in his life - his goal is put in jeopardy.
Jeremy Lin knows he is in better financial shape than 99% of the people on this planet. But for him, life is deeper than that. Money doesn't fulfill his life. A Harvard degree doesn't fulfill his life. Basketball does. His faith does.
Jeremy Lin's full speech can be found here.
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