Rarely is someone with an economics degree from Harvard considered to be the underdog. Even rarer is someone with an economics degree from Harvard seen playing professional basketball. Which is why Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise from obscurity to starting lineup of the NBA’s New York Knicks has been such a surprise. As a result, the media has pounced on Lin’s story—and thankfully so. Due to all the coverage of Lin in the past 48 hours since his back-to-back double-figure scoring outings, we now know that Lin’s path from overlooked high school standout to undrafted All-Ivy Leaguer to bench warmer then starting point guard of perhaps the toughest franchise to play for in all of professional sports was an extremely difficult, rocky, and challenging one—as well as one from which anyone looking to climb a career ladder (no matter what the career) can learn a great deal.
Consider, as you read the brief account of Lin’s career trajectory that follows, how much perseverance, patience, and hard work Lin has put in over the course of the last decade, not to mention how many setbacks he’s had to overcome, in order to fulfill his goal of becoming a starter on an NBA franchise.
Lin, a six-foot-three Asian-American, grew up in Palo Alto, California, where during his senior season he led his high school team to a state championship and earned all-state as well as California player-of-the-year honors. After the season, though, Lin received not a single scholarship offer. He ended up at Harvard, which is no powerhouse of a basketball program and, in fact, is typically a weak one among the typically weak Ivy League programs.
But Lin persevered, and, during his college career, he was twice named All-Ivy First Team and led Harvard to several school records, including overall wins and non-conference wins during his senior year. Lin also landed on the list of finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, an honor given annually to the top college point guard. In addition, Lin attracted further national recognition when he put up 30 points against a top-15 ranked UConn team.
But, again, upon graduation, not a single team at the next level wanted Lin’s services—that is, no NBA team drafted him. However, Lin did receive invitations to workout with several teams. And in the summer of 2010, prior to the 2011-2012 season, the Golden State Warriors signed Lin. He’d made the NBA. And yet, his first season was a disappointing one. On various occasions, Lin was sent down to the NBA’s D-League, and he finished his rookie year with an average of less than three points a game. Before the latest season began, the Warriors let him go.
Soon after, the Houston Rockets picked him up, only to let him go within two weeks. And that’s when the New York Knicks signed him. But the Knicks soon demoted Lin to the D-League three weeks later. After a big game there, though, Lin was recalled by the Knicks. Two weeks later, he scored 25 points in a win over the New Jersey Nets, then 28 more in a win over the Utah Jazz. In the process, Lin won the starting point guard slot for the Knicks. And now, many believe that the Knicks’ season, disappointing until Lin took the court, rests solely upon the shoulders of this 23 year old, whose $800,000 a year contract the Knicks only yesterday guaranteed.
Of course, it remains to be seen what Lin can do with this recent opportunity. But no matter what happens the rest of the season, or the rest of Lin's basketball career, his course thus far should serve to inspire, invigorate, and energize millions of people on their way to achieving their own goals. It has for me.
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