The first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA, Jeremy Lin unexpectedly rose to global media stardom in 2012 when he helped lead the New York Knicks to wins in each of his first seven games and “Linsanity” was born. Since then, he has played for the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, established a nonprofit foundation, and served as the subject of adocumentary film.
In an interview with Asia Blog, Lin reflected on his first five seasons in the NBA and how his Asian American background has impacted his career.
If you could go back to your first couple of seasons, what advice would you give yourself about playing in the NBA?
If I could give advice to myself, I would tell myself, number one, to have fun and enjoy each moment. Playing in the NBA was always a dream of mine, but when I finally made it, I was so obsessed with holding on to it, making the most of it and rising the ranks that I didn’t take enough time to cherish each day. That’s what I try to do more of these days. I would say number two would be to be confident and believe in yourself because I feel like it took me a while to get to that point after getting into the NBA.
When you first rose to stardom in 2012, much was made about you being the first Chinese and Taiwanese American NBA player. Why do you think that seemed like such a big deal to people, and do you think it continues to shape your career today?
I think it was a big deal because in many ways it was groundbreaking for people to see an Asian American in the NBA. People didn’t expect me to succeed. I think it is definitely still a big part of me and my career to this day, the most obvious being how unbelievable and devoted my fan base is through the highs and lows of my career. Many people see me as much more than a basketball player and I hope I can use this platform to glorify Christ as well as break down stereotypes of Asians.
Are there any questions related to your heritage that you’ve grown tired of answering over the years?
I’m very proud of who I am and my heritage so I have no issues answering questions about it. Early on it was frustrating when I felt like no one cared about my basketball play and only about my ethnicity, but as I get older I appreciate the fact that I have a unique voice and perspective. I hope to eventually be a strong voice to the world on behalf of Asian Americans.
You’ve spent time in Taiwan over the last few summers. What are some of your favorite memories from your time there?
My favorite times will always be hanging out with my family and friends and enjoying the sights and foods of Asia. We really enjoy going to the night market because it allows us to feel the pulse and energy of the city.
You’ve played in three different major sports markets. What are the things you liked most (and least) about living and playing in New York, Houston, and LA?
In New York, my favorite thing is how energetic the fans are. I had a harder time dealing with how hectic and fast-paced the city could be at times. It was an adjustment from the low-key suburbs of California.
In Houston, my favorite thing is the diversity of restaurants everywhere. I love to eat. My least favorite thing was losing in the first round of playoffs two years in a row.
In Los Angeles, my favorite thing was being able to enjoy the city with family and friends. My least favorite thing was the disappointment and unmet expectations of our team last season.
In the past year, you’ve dunked on your mom and posed as an Adidas employee (see below). Of all the pranks you’ve ever played, which one(s) are you proudest of, and why?
Definitely the Adidas employee prank was my proudest prank. It was one of my most elaborate pranks and I had to do it in another language. It was challenging but we made it work. Most of the other pranks I’m in my natural state and very comfortable, but the Adidas employee one had me pretty nervous.