By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service
This faith-filled son of Taiwanese immigrants was given little chance in the NBA. Only weeks ago, he was sleeping on other people’s couches as he struggled to make his start in New York. But after shutting down the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and leading the New York Knicks to six straight victories, many of his doubters now believe.
“This is a miracle from God,” Lin says, about his improbable rise in basketball. “I don’t think anybody expected this to happen.”
On Feb. 14, the undefeated point guard had the greatest moment of his career by hitting a three-pointer with one second left as the Knicks overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 90-87.
Much of Lin’s meteoric rise is about the Lord’s providence.
“Anytime something like this happens, a lot of stuff has to be put into place, and a lot of it is out of my control,” Lin said before the Toronto game. “If you look back at my story, it doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place.”
“There have been a lot of things that had to happen that I couldn’t control,” he continued. “You can try to call it coincidence, but at the
end of the day, there are 20, 30 things when you combine them all that had to happen at the right time in order for me to be here. That’s why I call it a miracle.”
Lin’s parents are no taller than 5 feet, 6 inches, so his 6 feet, 3 inches and 200 pounds are a marvel within the family. He received no offers for an athletic scholarship out of Palo Alto High School, even though he led his team to a state championship.
He aced the SAT test in math, which helped win him a place at Harvard, then became the first player in the history of the Ivy League to score 1,450 points. Lin graduated with a degree in economics and a 3.1 average. No Harvard grad has played in the NBA since 1954, until now.
After he graduated, Lin went unselected in the NBA draft, but was picked up on a two-year contract by his home team, the Golden State Warriors. With the Bay Area’s large Asian-American population, he attained a large following, even though he had little playing time and averaged only 2.6 points per game in his rookie season. Part of that season was spent on the Warrior’s D-league team.
His D-league experience tested his walk with God.
“When things weren’t going well my first year, I found a way to lose hope, lose trust in God,” he said, in a testimony recorded at River of Life Church in Santa Clara, Calif., last June. “I tried to remind myself of my story and how I got there,” he said.
A scripture grabbed his heart at that crucial juncture in the D-leagues, 1st Corinthians 9: 24-25.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we are imperishable.”
Lin realized he had been playing with the wrong motives.
“The prize I was playing for at that time was a perishable wreath,” he admitted. “I was playing for great games, great stats, getting the call to the Warriors, getting the next year of my contract, living up to everyone’s expectations. I was playing for those things, for myself, and for my glory.”
During this period of reflection, Lin’s pastor urged him to spend an hour a day with God, something Lin never considered before but decided to try. As he studied the Scripture one day, Philippians 3:14 resonated: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“The prize is the blessings and rewards we get when we get to heaven,” Lin realized, “the eternal fellowship we can have with Jesus Christ.”
Suddenly he recognized a new way to approach sports – and life. “Our true reward – something I learned I need to strive for – is in heaven, not on earth.”
The New York Knicks picked up Lin on Dec. 27 as a third-string backup after an injury to guard Iman Shumpert. Then they bounced him down to the D-league Erie BayHawks, but he surprised everyone on Jan. 20by scoring a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in the BayHawks’ 122–113 victory over the Maine Red Claws.
Three days later, he got the call from the Knicks to rejoin the A-team. Due to an injury and the fact that the team had been playing poorly, Coach Mike D’Antoni decided to give Lin a chance. On February 4th, Lin scored 25 points, made five rebounds, and seven assists in a 99–92 Knicks win over the New Jersey Nets.
On Feb. 10, he shocked the basketball world by scoring a career-high 38 points as he led his team to a 92-85 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. He outscored Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who had 34 points.
“Linsanity” began to grip New York, as the Knicks hustled to sell copies of Lin’s No. 17 jerseys and t-shirts. Sales on their online store increased more than 3,000 percent, and Lin’s jersey has been the bestseller in the NBA since February 4th.
Lin would like to be a pastor some day or head non-profit organizations, at home or overseas.
“Your talent and your ability to play basketball is a gift from God,” Lin said. “You have to use that for God’s glory.”