Jeremy Lin is one of the league’s most recognizable names, and it isn’t because of his on-court play.
His ethnic background helped make him such a polarizing figure. In its 70 years of existence, the NBA hasn’t seen many Asian-Americans, let alone those who have made a significant impact for multiple seasons. Outside of Yao Ming, even the most die-hard basketball fans can’t identify any names. Lin has made history by being the first NBA player of Chinese descent to step foot in the NBA.
On top of that, he’s a Harvard graduate. The Crimson have produced just four NBA players with the last coming in 1954. His “Linsanity” period is what put him on the map, and he compiled 26 jaw-dropping games that caught the NBA by storm.
Since then, he’s landed with a couple of teams and spent 2016-17 with the Brooklyn Nets. Lin was inactive for most of the season with hamstring problems, but he still averaged 14.5 points and 5.1 assists in 36 contests.
His rise to being a solid NBA starter is as mesmerizing as it is unlikely, and he hopped on teammate Randy Foye’s podcast on Wednesday to discuss it. An interesting tidbit came when Lin addressed racism — specifically, how it was worse when he was at Harvard:
“The worst was at Cornell, when I was being called a “chink.” That’s when it happened.
“I ended up playing terrible and getting a couple of charges and doing real out-of-character stuff … I didn’t say anything because when that stuff happens, I kind of just, I go and bottle up where I go into turtle mode and don’t say anything and just internalize everything.”
He prefaced that by noting the difference between college crowds and NBA crowds, “It’s all students and they’re all drunk.”
Being called a “chink” wasn’t the last time Lin would hear a derogatory phrase. He spoke of an incident that came when Harvard was playing Vermont, and the team’s head coach referred to him as “that Oriental” when pointing him out to an official. Classy move, coach.
The stereotypes were just as prevalent. Yale’s students used to question Lin’s ability to view the scoreboard “with those eyes.”
Since coming into the league, the racist remarks have quieted. Lin’s noted the improved behavior and, typically, most grown-ups act more maturely than drunk college kids.