by Eric Santillan
A few months ago, an Asian American named Jeremy Lin took the NBA by storm. He was a nondescript player from a school that wasn’t known for having a good basketball program. But when the New York Knicks needed a pointguard, he stepped up and took over. He made his legend before the all star break, bringing excitement to a city (New York) that has lost its taste for basketball after the Patrick Ewing years.
What can we learn from Jeremy Lin’s sudden rise in the NBA? There are many, but let me venture five things:
1. Believe in yourself when no one else does. Lin is only the third graduate from Harvard to make it to the NBA. A Harvard graduate playing basketball when he could be somewhere else (like investment banking for example) is amazing. He’s also one of the very few Asian Americans to play in the NBA. His academic background and his genetics don’t point to a successful basketball career. He’s already been cut by two other NBA teams before he joined the Knicks. But he persevered. You’ve just got to believe in yourself and hold on.
2. Find the system that works for your style. Lin isn’t Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. He’s not a scorer. He’s a passer and distributor – who can score. Golden State and Houston did not have the system to show off his real talent. But the Knicks system was just perfect for him to show off his strengths. You can’t be some 2nd rate Michael Jordan just because everybody wants to be like Mike. You’ve got to endeavor to understand your strengths and then you’ve got to look for a job or an organization that will find good use for those strengths.
3. Look for the diamond in the rough. You probably manage people at your own organization today. Look for the Jeremy Lins among you. We often put people inside boxes: “He’s from Harvard. He’s Asian American. Surely he can’t play basketball.” But there he is–the diamond in the rough. If you were the general manager of Golden State and Houston (where Lin was an unknown for many years), you’d be scratching your head and calling yourself stupid for letting talent like that slip away.
4. Seize the opportunity when it comes up. Lin got to the chance to be centerstage because they had too many injuries. Baron Davis was gone. The other point guards were out. Carmello Anthony was injured. Amare Stoudemaire had to leave the team because of a family death. Lin could have wasted what was given him and people everywhere would not have noticed and cared. But the opportunity was there. He seized it, made the most of it. And the rest is history.
5. Remain humble. The remarkable thing about Jeremy Lin is how he has remained calm in the middle of all these media storm. He has become the poster boy of the Asian American community, everyone wants to own a Jeremy Lin jersey, casual fans who don’t even know what a free throw is, are watching basketball. But he has remained level headed and gracious. I saw an interview of him over NBA.com where the first thing he said when he sat down for the interview was “I’d like to thank God for giving me the opportunity I had today.” He’s truly someone worth emulating.