LIN-SANITY: The remarkable story behind Jeremy Lin’s remarkable run with the Knicks

New York Knicks Apparel, Jerseys and Gifts

By: Kels Dayton

You might think you know all about Jeremy Lin, the latest smash sensation in today’s minute-to-win-it media climate, where the average attention span lasts about as long as it takes to microwave a Hot-Pocket.

The 6-3 Knicks guard is the first Taiwanese-American ever to play in the NBA, and the first Harvard grad to suit up since Ed Smith in 1953.

LIN-sanity has taken over New York City. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He has taken the league by storm, averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in five games (all wins) and becoming the big man on campus in the biggest city in the world. He’s been a trending topic on Twitter, a top Google search, and the subject of rap videos, “Marry Me” signs and bad New York Post puns.

His jersey has been flying off the shelves. New Yorkers have already listed him ahead of Patrick Ewing and Walt Frazier and just behind Willis Reed as the greatest Knicks player of all-time. If you haven’t heard about Jeremy Lin over the past week, you’ve been living under a rock.

So yeah, you might think you’ve heard it all about the kid who grew up in Palo Alto, California, became the state’s player of the year in 2006, and somehow received zero Division 1 scholarship offers. You might think his rise to NBA glory is remarkable because he’s an Asian-American, because he’s from Harvard, and because he was buried at the end of the Knicks’ bench just a week and a half ago.

But Jeremy Lin’s story is remarkable for so many other reasons. His career is the culmination of one man’s strange obsession, one that took Gie-Ming Lin from Taiwan to Indiana, then to California and Massachusetts.

Gie-Ming Lin grew up in Taiwan, where basketball was about as popular as underwater sumo wrestling. But for whatever reason, whenever it passed his eyes, Gie-Ming was transfixed. He had an inexplicable passion for the game, one that millions of people around the world share.

Lin went to medical school, and as ESPN’s Dana O’Neill wrote, dreamed of coming to the U.S. for two reasons: to finish his Ph.D. and “to watch the NBA”. He immigrated in 1977, enrolling at Purdue University and completing his doctorate in computer engineering. It was then that Gie-Ming  finally satisfied his basketball jones. He stared at the television and watched all the greats… Kareem, Bird, Magic, Dr. J and Jordan, as their careers took flight.

“My dad,” Jeremy said, “is a complete basketball junkie.”

Gie-Ming, low right, taught himself the game by watching old videotapes of NBA greats. (Photo courtesy: ESPN)

Gie-Ming longed to lace up his Nikes and play this fantastic game, with the jumping and running and shooting, but there was one problem: He had never picked up a ball in his life. So he poured over old videotapes, studying Magic and Kareem, Larry and Isaiah, teaching himself the game like a scientist who had just discovered a new species.

“I got my hook shot from Kareem,”  Gie-Ming says. He’s 5-foot-6.

Although his chance at basketball glory had surpassed him, Gie-Ming decided that his children were going to grow up knowing the game. He took his oldest son, Joshua, to the YMCA to play pick-up with him, and as soon as they could walk, Jeremy and youngest son Joseph came along too.

Here they were, this family of a 5-6 Taiwanese immigrant, playing together at the ‘Y’. Drilling for hours and learning the fundamentals of the game through their father’s old NBA videotapes.

As O’Neill wrote, “Forget that all of those players on the videotapes had long since retired, that the guy with Kareem’s hook shot wouldn’t hit Abdul-Jabbar’s armpit.”

This was the American dream turned family obsession. The boys loved basketball and like their father, began to develop a thirst for the game that defined them just as much as their success in the classroom.

Joshua became a star player at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Joseph also played there.

Lin is perhaps the greatest player in Harvard history. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

And Jeremy? Well, Jeremy was special. He grew to 6-3, had a killer jumper and an innate ability to make plays off the dribble. He could shoot like Larry, attack the rim like Jordan, and ran the pick and roll like it was invented just for him. He was an incredibly smart player, and had developed that unique feel for the game, something not many players have. Like the rest of his family, he was also a gifted student, so when Harvard offered him the opportunity to play Division 1 basketball, he jumped on it.

Lin hasn’t looked back since. He averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds in his senior season at Harvard, and was one of the main reasons why head coach Tommy Amaker has been able to take the program to heights it had never seen before. In 111 years of playing basketball, Harvard has never been to the NCAA Tournament. They came close with Lin, but were felled by another Ivy upstart, Cornell, which reached the Sweet 16 in 2009. This year, Amaker has Harvard ranked in the Top 25 and on the fast track to an NCAA bid. If the Crimson get there, they will owe a debt of gratitude to Lin, who is undoubtedly the greatest player in school history.

“All the time he was growing up I never thought about Jeremy playing in college or playing professionally,” Gie-Ming said. “I just enjoyed watching him play. I’m so proud of him. I told him my dream has already come true.”

Knicks fans could say the same thing.

He could've been yours, Warriors and Rockets fans. (AP Photo/ Frank Franklin III)

Jeremy signed a rookie contract with the Golden State Warriors in 2010, and averaged 2.6 points in 29 games as a rookie. He was released by the Warriors in December, then cut by the Rockets weeks later. He ended up on the Knicks’ bench in January, but didn’t start to get minutes until head coach Mike D’Antoni noticed that he was working over resident point guards Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby in practice.

“He got his opportunity, and he got lucky because we were playing so bad,” said D’Antoni. “It’s like other teams–why did they pass on him? It’s because they just [didn’t] know. We had an idea he could play, we liked him, and it worked out. The end result of it is, we’re lucky.”

Lucky indeed. Lin’s total of 89 points in his first three starts with the Knicks stands as the most scored by any player in his first three starts since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. He’s taken an awful Knicks team from the brink of implosion to four straight wins, including a legend-affirming 92-85 victory over the Lakers in which Lin went for 38 points.

It was his NBA baptism.

After admiring all of the greats from the 80’s on videotapes he still owns, Gie-Ming watched as his son out-dueled one of the greatest players of this generation, Kobe Bryant, in the world’s most famous arena. Incredible. Maybe one day some Taiwanese immigrant will teach himself the game by watching Jeremy Lin play.

The Knicks won again on Saturday, defeating the Timberwolves, 100-98, on a Lin free throw with 4.9 seconds left. They are 5-0 with Lin in the starting lineup.

And it all started with a 5-6 Taiwanese immigrant, some old tapes and a dream.

Bet you didn’t know that.

New York Knicks Apparel, Jerseys and Gifts

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  1. Pingback: Jeremy Lin’s story is the stuff dreams are made of « ROUNDBALL DAILY

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