Linsanity was one of the most unlikely and awe-inspiring success stories in NBA history, not only because of the rarity of Asian Americans in the NBA, but also because Jeremy Lin’s success seemingly came out of nowhere. Everyone knows the story of the four-year player at Harvard, who went undrafted and rode the bench for a year with the Golden State Warriors before being taken by the New York Knicks as an absolute last resort who instead became a worldwide sensation. But Lin, now with the Houston Rockets, tells 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose in an interview airing Sunday night that he believes his ethnicity is largely responsible for that pre-Linsanity obscurity.
“I think the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian American,” Lin told Rose when asked why he never was offered a Division I basketball scholarship. “I think that was a barrier.”.
Lin excelled as a high school basketball player in northern California but was passed over for scholarship offers from nearby schools such as UCLA and Stanford.
NBA Commissioner David Stern agreed that Lin’s race might have been a factor in why he had to fight his way onto an NBA roster through summer league. “I don’t know whether he was discriminated against because he was at Harvard or because he was Asian,” Stern said in the broadcast.
It’s impossible to know how much of Lin’s difficult path to NBA stardom was caused by his race, but it would be naive to assume it had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, had Lin played at a more high-profile school and been drafted in the mid-to-late first round in 2010, he would not have been able to sign the three-year, $25 million deal he received from the Rockets after his second season as a pro. It’s clear he has the talent to be a starting point guard and that would have come to the surface one way or another. His path was just a little more unorthodox.