On the evening of February 4, 2012, I was attending my niece’s fifth birthday party in New Jersey. After a successful night of watching five year olds tumble through various gym obstacles, my cell phone exploded with texts of “Yo are you watching this?” and “your boy is blowing up!” Frantically, I open my ESPN app and see that Jeremy Lin had 25 points in a close Knicks defeat of the New Jersey Nets. I had to blink twice and close and reopen the app to make sure I was reading this correctly. Could this be true? The player I’ve been following since college had finally gotten his chance and exploded for 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists? Prior to this day, I would gloat to all my friends if Jeremy collected 10 points in garbage time or had one nice move that would display his basketball ability (his crossover on Tayshaun Prince during garbage time of a Warriors-Pistons game comes to memory). Flabbergasted, I check MSG and see if they are replaying the game later that night and indeed they were at midnight. Back then, I could not justify paying for cable TV yet so I notified a neighbor that I would be invading her apartment and using her TV between the hours of 12-3am to watch what I have been waiting three years to see.
Many people ask me why I am so obsessed with Jeremy Lin. The reasons are simple. Ever since I was a kid shooting hoops on my driveway, sometimes so late into the night that I couldn’t even see the ball anymore, I would daydream about one day being the first Asian to make it into the NBA (back then I had no idea who Wat Misaka was). When Yao Ming joined the league in 2002, I was happy, but at the same time there is not much an Asian American can relate to with a 7’6″, Chinese government bred basketball player from Shanghai who barely speaks any English. Thus, when the Golden State Warriors signed Jeremy Lin, I was elated that one of “us” had made it to the NBA. On top of that, the list of similarities between Jeremy and I is not short. We are both …
- Taiwanese-American, with familial roots coming from China. His parents also shared similar stories of coming over to America from Taiwan as graduate students like mine did
- The same height (see below picture for proof)
- Share a love for basketball (though he is a bit better at it than I am)
- Christians (though he is better at this than I am as well)
- Able to eat exorbitant amounts of food
These similarities, combined with my yearning to see Jeremy make it to the NBA propelled me to become the Jeremy Lin super fan that I am today. I remember the first time I trekked up to Columbia to attend a Harvard vs. Columbia basketball game during Jeremy’s senior year. There were barely any empty seats as many New York City Asian Americans flocked uptown to see what the hype about this kid from Harvard was all about. That night, Jeremy had a solid game of 14 points on 5-6 shooting in a nearly 30 point rout of the Columbia Lions. Though it was a blow out game, I distinctly remember thinking that Jeremy possessed high on court IQ and did not force anything, but at the same time was able to get good shots and set his teammates up with lucrative opportunities to score. A few months later, I traveled down to Princeton with my family to watch Jeremy play in Harvard’s last regular season game (and deciding factor of who would take 1st place in the Ivy league and accordingly a birth into the NCAA March Madness tournament) against Princeton. The outcome of this game was different as Harvard lost by 3 and Jeremy finished with only 8 points on 1-8 shooting, including a missed potential game-tying contested layup in crunch time. Many of the friends and family that I went to the game with lost hope in Jeremy’s NBA chances that night. I noticed that Jeremy deferred to his teammates a little too much this game and could’ve been more aggressive and/or realized that he was the one who had to take over and lead his team to victory. After the game, my sister, Carol, and I somehow ventured our way to outside of the Harvard locker room and caught Jeremy as he was coming out. After seeing that he was willing to take pictures with another group of fans that had the same intentions, I approached him (my sister was too star struck to move at this point) and said something along the lines of “Hey tough loss, you guys played hard man. I know you’ll make it to the NBA next year. We’ll be rooting for you. Can we get a picture please?” I also may or may not have slipped in a comment about being Facebook friends with him. Jeremy was clearly bummed about the loss and didn’t say much back other than “thanks, I appreciate it” but the outcome of that conversation were the 2 pictures below.
Days to weeks after that game, I received a lot of doubt and criticism from my friends and coworkers who all tried to say that I had hyped him up for no reason and that he was never going to make it to the NBA. Especially when Harvard got blown out by Appalachian State the following game in the first round of the CIT tournament, Jeremy’s future seemed bleak. Fast forward a few months and it is now summertime in July of 2010 and Jeremy Lin somehow secured a spot on the roster of the Dallas Mavericks summer league team. I’ll admit I had missed all of his previous summer league games but made sure to tune into his match up against the Washington Wizards, with highly heralded number one draft pick, John Wall. In my wildest fantasies, I was imagining Jeremy Lin somehow getting subbed into the game, matching up with Wall and outplaying him, showing everyone that he should’ve been given a look in the draft. Little did I know, my fantasies would come true that night. Due to an injury from starter Roddy Beaubois, Lin was able to enter the game and maximized his playing time by out playing Wall and even got the crowd to cheer against the number 1 draft pick by the end of the game. Lin finished with an efficient 13 points on 6-12 shooting in 28 minutes of playing time and also forced Wall to throw up a couple of bricks from his stifling defense. Because of this performance, Lin received offers from multiple NBA teams and as you may know, he signed a partially guaranteed 2 year deal with the Golden State Warriors later that month.
Flashback to Feb 4th, 2012, I am sitting in the pitch dark of my neighbor’s apartment while she was sleeping, watching the TV at low volume and waiting for the replay of the Knicks vs Nets game to start. I helped myself to a bottle of Merlot and some of her junk food and before I know it, I’m ¾ of a bottle of wine deep and it’s the 4th quarter and Lin is just having his way with Deron Williams and the Nets. I remember being so happy at that moment that I was taking pictures of the TV with my phone so that I would never forget that moment. That night, I slept with a smile on my face and to this day, I am grinning just as hard re-watching and re-living that fateful game.