Jeremy Lin

Hoopla over Lin a lesson for us all

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Jeremy Lin was in obscurity a month ago, known only to those who follow Asian-American basketball players. But his explosion in game after game for the New York Knicks after a desperate coach took him off the bench for a try-out has made him a sensation, particularly among the world's Chinese communities. In mere weeks, the story of the 23-year-old Harvard graduate born in the US of Taiwanese parents has gone viral. He is being feted from New York to Beijing for his talent, his faith, for shattering stereotypes and for being an inspiration to a race. But his phenomenal rise transcends even all that. It offers a lesson for everyone: conventional thinking and common wisdom too often block innovation and talent.

Lin was repeatedly overlooked for the starting line-up of the Knicks and he was scratched from two other National Basketball Association teams because he did not fit the mould. He did not graduate from a university with a history of producing basketball stars, he lacked experience at the highest level of the game and there are not many Asians in the NBA. Only the gap left by struggling superstars and an injured point guard got him off the bench. Finally, he was able to show his ball handling, passing skills and court vision to impressive effect.

Powered by Lin's point-scoring and assist wizardry, the Knicks went from being in the doldrums to seven straight wins and their season is now looking up. Asian and Chinese communities have embraced him and the governments of China and Taiwan have been trying to appropriate him, seeing Lin as the perfect vehicle to push their agendas. A lexicon has sprung up around his surname, with words such as Linsanity, Linderella, and Lincredible.

Throughout, Lin has been typically humble, stuck firmly to his faith and worked as hard as ever at being a team player. Just as with the now-retired Yao Ming, every young Chinese basketball player wants to be like him. But managers of other teams and even companies should also take heed. When looking for talent that will score, there is every reason to look beyond the anticipated and the expected.