Culture / Sporting Life

Jeremy Lin Deserves Better — Racial Stereotyping Against Asians Clearly Hurt His Career

Lin Isn't Whining, He's Telling the Uncomfortable Truths His Trolls Confirm Every Day

BY // 07.30.19

Jeremy Lin deserves so much better. But maybe this ending was inevitable all along. For no matter how much Lin accomplished, no matter how many doubters he proved wrong, he never was going to get a completely fair shake.

Not with racial stereotypes against Asians still so strong in team sports. Just because you’re a pioneer doesn’t mean you were ever truly accepted.

Just read the comments from the trolls mocking Lin for opening up on his mental battles, the fight against feeling that the NBA has given up on him.

“I always knew that if I gave anybody a reason to doubt that they would,” Lin said in an emotional speech in Taiwan for GOOD TV, a Christian channel.

Jeremy Lin isn’t whining. He’s telling the truth that’s long been glossed over. It’s not about being a cry baby as some clearly borderline racist critics cry. He’s showing some courage. Putting his tears and pain on full display.

It may be too late for the 30-year-old Lin to ever reach his true potential in the NBA. He got discounted, dismissed and doubted for far too long. Then, he got hurt.

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But maybe by finally speaking out, by finally giving voice to the off-court drama he dealt with during his time playing with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, the next generation of Asian-American guards will be treated a little more fairly.

Frankly, it’s about time Jeremy Lin spoke out.

Lin is not some figment of the New York hype machine. He’s always been much more than Linsanity, more than any one brilliant run for the Knicks. In his prime, he was a borderline all-star, capable of racking up a triple-double off the bench. Only 19 NBA players in the last 34 years have pulled off that feat. Lin only needed 29 minutes to get his triple-double as a Rocket.

Of course, that would have earned most NBA players a real look at a starting job. But Jeremy Lin was rarely treated like most NBA players.

This is the truth that came tumbling out of him in Taiwan. Jeremy Lin didn’t have to be as good as his NBA peers. He needed to be much better to be given the same chances as a comparable player. Coaches and executives looked for reasons to doubt Lin.

He played some of his best years with a governor on, sometimes as limited as a go-kart at a kids track.

“After Linsanity, there was a lot of tough things that happened in Houston and LA, and a lot of details that the public doesn’t know,” Lin revealed. “But I finally got that opportunity in Brooklyn. And again, it goes back to my ultimate dream: I had a chance to be the player I thought I could be.

“I had one year of injury, two years of injury, and this was in the middle of my prime. Then last summer, out of nowhere, a trade. And I got traded to the worst team in the Eastern Conference. And that’s a tough place, because they’re rebuilding.”

Jeremy Lin’s now played for eight teams in his nine NBA seasons. That movement — much of it forced — is the mark of a player who needed to keep searching for a real opportunity. There were coaches and executives who believed in Lin along the way (Coach Mike D’Antoni in New York, owner Leslie Alexander and VP of basketball operations Sam Hinkie in Houston for sure, GM Sean Marks at least early on in Brooklyn), but an entire organization never got in lockstep behind him.

Lin would see the possibilities — and then end up playing for coaches like Kevin McHale in Houston and Byron Scott in LA, who did nothing but limit him.

Jeremy Lin’s Rich Frustration

Yes, Jeremy Lin has still made more money playing basketball ($65.7 million in salary alone — and plenty more in off-court earnings) than most of us can ever dream of. Yes, he long ago beat the odds, going from an undrafted guard from Harvard to getting cut by the Rockets on Christmas Eve to Linsanity.

But if you think that should completely eliminate Lin’s anguish, you have no idea how competitors are wired. Jeremy Lin knows in his heart of hearts that he is a better player than he was able to show, that he could have done so much more.

You bet that hurts.

“After the season, I had to get ready for this Asia trip. And it was the last thing I wanted to do, because I knew for six weeks I would have to just put on a smile,” Lin said the other day in Taiwan. “I would have to talk about a championship that I don’t feel like I really earned. I would have to talk about a future (in the NBA) I don’t know if I want to have.

“And honestly, it’s just embarrassing. It’s tough.”

Anyone who watched Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix — or with Jeremy Lin — should have known he was a great coach.

Jeremy Lin never asked to be anyone’s social experiment. He didn’t set out to take on the way Asian males are emasculated in popular culture. He didn’t set out to challenge the racial stereotypes about Asians that are brazenly largely still out in the open.

He just wanted to hoop.

Still, Lin somehow took on the missions he never asked for with more class, dignity and humor than anyone could rightfully expect. And he largely delivered on the court too. Whenever he was healthy and given a real chance.

If this really is it for Jeremy Lin in the NBA, if he ends up playing the good years he has left in Europe, it’s the league’s loss, too.

Lin made the NBA a better place. Even if it seldom really loved him back.

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