If you’re a sports fan, you’ve likely written off the NBA season because of its late start due to a collective bargaining dispute. Or maybe, like me, you’ve never been that interested in the NBA in the first place. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from hearing about the Knicks’ new point guard, Jeremy Lin. If you’re a fan of The Waterboy (guilty as charged), you’ll like this story. If you’re a fan of Tim Tebow, buckle up.
A Harvard grad who received league honors from his sophomore season on, but toiled in relative obscurity in the Ivy League, Lin was initially signed by the Golden State Warriors. As a native of Palo Alto, he received heavy media attention and quickly became a fan favorite before even stepping on the court. Soon though, Lin found himself playing for the Warriors’ D-league (the NBA Developmental League is the equivalent to baseball’s minor leagues) affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. When the NBA lockout began in December, he became a casualty in the fight to free up more money to snag other, more skilled and seasoned, players. Lin seemed to earn a second chance when the Houston Rockets brought him on board, but within two weeks, he found himself team-less once again. Enter New York.
The Knicks, who have been a laughing stock of the NBA this millennium, signed Lin on December 27. The Knicks haven’t won an NBA Championship since 1973, and since the departure of my fellow Hoya Patrick Ewing in 2000, have found themselves in a painful decline. Even during this Reader’s Digest version of the NBA season, the Knicks haven’t disappointed their critics: from January 12 to the month’s end, the Knicks’ record was 2-10, despite the recent acquisitions of hyped All-Star players Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Having scored zero points on only three shots with the Knicks to that point, in last Saturday’s match-up against the New Jersey Nets, Lin had a break-out performance, scoring 25 points in 36 minutes of play.
In the next game, against the Utah Jazz, Lin put up 28. In Washington, DC, against the Wizards, he added another 23. The term “Linsanity” began making the rounds in the blogosphere, and Knicks were all of a sudden on a “Linning” streak. The Knicks had hope, unemployment was down, all was right in the Lin-iverse. Then came the Lakers. Basketball analysts cautioned that Friday’s game against the Lakers would put Lin and his Knicks to the test. Before the game itself, Kobe Bryant confessed he didn’t know much (or anything) about Lin. En route to the Knicks win, Lin scored a career-high 38 points. This streak amounted to the most points scored in a player’s first four starts since the NBA-ABA merger. More than Jordan. More than LeBron. More than anyone.
Considering his journey and our “I-told-you-so” zeitgeist, Lin has every reason to tout his talents, fill Twitter feeds with his questions about which car or home to buy, and succumb to the pressures and temptations of professional sports. Instead, he says, “I am not saying I am better than anybody else, but I am going to try to live the way I have always lived and try not to change just because I am in the NBA.” So, he continues to post Bible verses on his Twitter feed. He sleeps on his brother’s couch. When asked about poor performance early in the game against the Wizards, Lin admitted, “I came out a little slow, came out a little flat…you’re right.” His humility, likely the result of tempering disappointments and quality mentoring, is refreshing. My favorite Lin quote came from an article about him in Christian Post. When asked about being cut from the Warriors, Lin responded,
It was really tough for me at the time but I just tried to hold on to a lot of the stuff in the Bible that God gives to trust, have joy in the sufferings, and trust in his perfect plan. That’s what I tried my best to do and I’m thankful the way things turned out.
Unsurprisingly, in the last couple of days, the Tebow comparisons have been piling up. According to People.com, Lin aspires to become a pastor or work in the non-profit sector. Like Tebow, Lin experienced significant success as a college athlete but has struggled, until recently, as a professional. In their experiences with failure and doubt, both have developed a vision of the Gospel that submits to a crucified Christ. They know pain. They know defeat. And yet, when they win, little about their vision changes. The miracle of all this is that in victory, pride takes a backseat to humility. We want vengeance, and instead, they give thanks. For them, win or lose, it’s all ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
Will the Tebow comparisons continue? Most definitely. Even Lin has admitted that he looks up to Tebow. At this moment, however, it’s Lin’s time and he deserves some time in the Lin-light. My shameless addition? You bet.