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Jeremy's call

(John W. McDonough: Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)


Jeremy's call

The NBA's first Asian-American player since 1947 carries more dreams than his own

Jeremy Lin is no blue chip. College basketball programs overlooked him out of high school. And NBA scouts overlooked him out of college. Nevertheless, when the Bay Area native came off the bench for the first time in a Golden State Warrior jersey this past fall, the crowd inside Oracle Arena erupted.

The cheers haven't stopped since. With every catch of a pass, every made basket, every dribble drive, NBA crowds across the country bulge in volume. It's as though Lin's very presence represents something bigger than basketball. And it does. As the first Asian-American in the league since 1947, Lin embodies hope for tens of thousands of Asian-American youngsters.

That hope took a hit two months after Lin's debut, as the Warriors demoted him to the NBA Development League for more work on his game. For Lin, 22, the move amounted to just one more challenge in a trying basketball journey that has encountered doubts from coaches at every level.

Lacking the explosive athleticism of many players at the guard position, Lin is often underestimated-typically to the detriment of opposing defenses. At Palo Alto High School, he filled up stat sheets en route to a state championship. Receiving no Division I scholarship offers, he shipped out to Harvard and promptly shattered school records as the first Ivy League player ever to record 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists, and 200 steals. Such numbers made him one of 11 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation's top collegiate point guard. But the accolades did not translate to an NBA draft selection, as Lin was overlooked again.

The frustration taught him nothing if not perspective: "Every time a tough situation comes around, I don't need to question if God is with me, but I do need to see how I can best glorify Him and if there's anything I need to grow in," Lin said. "Everything happens through His perfect plan-so much of my life has confirmed it."

In the post-draft malaise of self-doubt, Lin's divine confirmation came by way of one explosive and unexpected performance. In a summer league game, with dozens of scouts looking on, Lin outplayed No. 1 overall pick John Wall and put the NBA world on notice. Suddenly teams such as the Mavericks, Lakers, and Warriors were interested in the Harvard grad.

"So many times I went through a tough situation and God turned it into a miracle," Lin said. "He took a bad thing and turned it into a good thing."

Lin credits his Christian faith for providing balance amid vocational uncertainty. With 17 NBA games now under his belt and a Golden State coaching staff convinced of his talent, Lin appears headed for an extended professional basketball career. He is conscious of the mantle his ethnicity brings and increasingly comfortable in carrying it. But his ultimate hope is to leverage the attendant public platform and financial affluence of an NBA stint to effect urban renewal.

Lin plans to create a nonprofit foundation that helps children in inner-city communities get their high-school diplomas, while also introducing them to Jesus. After basketball, he has entertained the idea of attending seminary and becoming a pastor.

In the meantime, he says that no matter how much his career may mean to Asian-Americans, he is learning to resist making sport ultimate and "to have the humility to admit that nothing I do on the basketball court will make God love me more."