On February 4, 2012, little-known point guard Jeremy Lin started for the New York Knicks in place of an injured Baron Davis. He dropped 25 points and 7 assists against All-Star guard Deron Williams. The next game, Lin put up 28 points and 8 assists. He followed that up with performances of 23, 38, and 20 points over the next week. Three days later, Lin capped off his streak by scoring 27 points and hitting a game-winning 3 at the buzzer against the Toronto Raptors. Lin was tearing up the league, and the Knicks were on a six game winning streak. Thus, ‘Linsanity’ was born.
But the spotlight hasn’t always been this fond of Lin. Despite leading his high-school team to a state championship and being named the California state player of the year, Lin received no scholarship offers to play college ball. He instead went to Harvard, where athletic scholarships are not granted.
In a 60 Minutes interview set to air on April 7, Charlie Rose asked Lin why he believes he wasn’t offered a scholarship to nearby UCLA or Stanford out of high-school.
"Well, the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian American which, you know, is a whole different issue but...I think that was a barrier. I mean, it’s just a stereotype,” Lin said. Lin believes if he were a white or black player, he would have gotten a scholarship to Stanford, the school of his dreams.
Lin could point to fellow NBA guard Russell Westbrook to support this claim. Westbrook played basketball in California at the same time as Lin. Both were star point guards for their schools. After winning the state championship, Lin was picked over Westbrook as the point guard for the California All-State team. Lin went to Harvard without a scholarship, while Westbrook received a full ride to UCLA.
Lin was a standout player at Harvard, averaging 17 point per game while shooting over 50% from the field his final two seasons. But as his college career game to a close and the 2010 draft approached, Lin received no attention from NBA teams. He went undrafted. Lin eventually got in with the Golden State Warriors after strong performances in the NBA’s rookie summer league. NBA commissioner David Stern thinks Lin’s background had something to do with the lack of professional interest he drew as well.
"I think in the true sense the answer to that is yes," Stern said. "In terms of looking at somebody...I don't know whether he was discriminated against because he was at Harvard, or because he was Asian."
After receiving minimal play time as a rookie, Lin signed with the Knicks for the 2011-2012 season. He was almost cut from the team the week before he put together his string of starts that set the NBA world on fire. Last offseason, Lin was rewarded for his play when he signed a 3-year, $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. So far this season, he is averaging 13 points and 6 assists per game.
Lin’s story has caught the attention of other NBA players as well. Kobe Bryant says talent like Lin’s doesn’t come out of nowhere, and that Lin must have been overlooked by NBA management for one reason or another.
“The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed it," Bryant said."They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff, 'It came out of nowhere.' I think it's a load of (garbage). You can't play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to be something there and everybody missed it.”
Lin’s full 60 Minutes interview airs April 7th on CBS at 7:00pm eastern time.