Lin will get a shot with the Golden State Warriors.
His journey from being unrecruited out of high school to going undrafted to making the Association with his self-proclaimed favorite team would be a great story, regardless. Add the fact that Lin is an Asian who graduated from Harvard, and it becomes something a little bigger.
His last name, Lin, tells us that he is of Asian descent. His first name, more importantly, tells us that he is not just Asian, but Asian-American. Asians in the NBA, though few in number, are nothing new. We all know about Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. There’s also Yi Jianlian, the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA draft, now with the Washington Wizards. And Sun Yue was drafted in ‘07 by the Lakers. However, what these players all have in common is that they are from China. They were born in China, played in China and then came to the NBA.
Lin, on the other hand, is Asian-American. He was born in California. His parents are originally from Jiaxing, China, and emigrated from Taiwan. Lin making it to the NBA is truly a milestone. Should he make the Warriors’ final roster, he will become the first Asian-American to play in the NBA since Wataru Misaka, whose career consisted of a mere three games with the New York Knicks in 1947.
Being American makes Lin’s basketball journey totally different from those of Yao and Yi. For one thing, Lin doesn’t need a translator to talk to the media. More importantly, Lin’s story is something that other young Asian-Americans can relate to. By making it to the NBA, Lin is helping break Asian-American stereotypes and setting an example for aspiring Asian athletes in America who rarely get a chance to see Asian-Americans playing on their favorite teams.
Naming Asian athletes in the big four American sports is hard enough. Naming Asian-American athletes (those who were born and grew up in America), well, that’s nearly impossible. While baseball certainly has found the Asian market (and even there, mostly with players from abroad), football, hockey and basketball fall far behind. Just this year, the first player of Chinese heritage was drafted into the NFL when the Buffalo Bills selected Ed Wang from Virginia Tech.
Then there’s the fact that Lin attended Harvard, a member of the Ivy League and consistently ranked the best university in America, if not the world. Asians attending Ivy League schools is hardly breaking news. They make up 4 percent of the U.S. population, but 20 percent of the Ivy League population. However, Asians who attend Ivies usually go into medicine, finance or law — not professional basketball.
Regardless of race, Ivy League graduates rarely enter professional sports. This shouldn’t be too surprising. The Ivy League is better known for academic excellence, prohibiting athletic scholarships on the basis that athletes should be admitted as students. This means that while schools may be competitive in the league itself, Ivy teams generally do not stack well against the rest of the country. It’s one thing to win an Ivy championship, but in order to get into professional sports, an athlete needs to be the best of the best.
An Ivy League graduate has not played in an NBA regular-season game since 2003, and since 1989, the Ivy League has created more U.S. Presidents (four) than NBA draft picks (two). No Ivy Leaguer has been drafted since 1995.
This is the kind of history we are witnessing as Jeremy Lin joins the NBA. Not only is Lin fulfilling his ultimate dream, but his story should inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter how impossible they seem.
After all, an Asian from Harvard making it to the NBA? That used to seem impossible.