Editor’s Note: Back in the April 2009 issue of Dime Magazine, we ran a two-page feature on a kid from Harvard named Jeremy Lin, who was ripping up the Ivy League and knocking off ACC schools almost single-handedly. We thought our readers would enjoy this look back at that story and the foundation of what made Lin the player he is today. — PC
Two hours before his squad was to take the floor at the San Francisco Pro-Am, Jeremy Lin entered the gym inside the historic Kezar Pavilion in downtown San Fran. It was the summer of 2007, and the 6-2 guard had just wrapped up a stellar freshman season at Harvard where he was the Crimson’s sixth man.
Lin was all set to test his skills against some of the Bay Area’s best on hallowed ground once graced by Tim Hardaway, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Steve Nash, and Gilbert Arenas. But before Lin, who is Taiwanese, began warming up, a volunteer at the event approached him to let him know “There is no volleyball tonight, it’s basketball.”
Never mind that Lin was named theSan Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News’ High School Player of the Year a season earlier. Never mind that he dropped 17 points on nationally-ranked Mater Dei High to deliver Palo Alto High to its first state championship in decades. Never mind that he was on the brink of starting at point guard for Harvard that upcoming season. That volunteer could only see one thing.
While the mix up was an honest mistake, it shines a light on an unfortunate truth: most Asian basketball players in America are not respected for their skills. In the League, Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian have definitely softened the stereotype against Asian ballplayers, but they are both seen as physical anomalies. Even if these two represent Asian basketball players, they don’t really connect with other elite Asian-American basketball players, who make up less than half a percent of D-I hoops.
Jeremy knows all about it. He’s been fighting pre-conceived notions ever since he first picked up a basketball.
“Growing up a lot of people have always told me I would never play high school or never play college,” says Lin. “You don’t see too many Asian-Americans.”
“There are things that might have happened that we might not be aware of that he’s had to deal with being an Asian basketball player,” adds Peter Diepenbrock, who was Lin’s coach at Palo Alto High. “He keeps a chip on his shoulder a little bit I think.”