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Flim shows Jeremy Lin's hard road to stardom

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-25 07:21

Racial tension has been in the spotlight in the US in recent weeks, but it was hard to identify any standing in the path to stardom of the first Chinese-American NBA player, Jeremy Lin, last Thursday, when hundreds of people packed a hotel ballroom in Washington to watch the documentary Linsanity before it plays in theaters across the US in September.

The racial element that contributed to Lin's years of under-recruitment was reflected in the words of former NBA player Rex Walters, a Japanese-American, who said that "if (Lin's) white, he's either a good shooter or heady. If he's Asian, he's good at math. We're not taking him".

Lin has also said he would have been treated differently if he were a different race.

During his years playing for Harvard and later in the NBA, Lin often heard racial slurs at games, such as "Sweet and sour pork!", "Open your eyes!" or "Go back to China".

On Feb 17 last year, just weeks after Lin became an NBA sensation, ESPN's mobile website used a racial slur - "Chink in the Armor" - to describe Lin after a Knicks loss to the Hornets. ESPN soon apologized for the offense and removed the headline.

Racism is only one of the many obstacles Lin has had to overcome in his basketball career. The director and producers were initially rejected when they tried to film Lin and his family, but their persistence paid off when they got a reluctant nod from Lin. The crew was not only allowed to film him, but was also given access to family videos of Lin's childhood and high school years.

Born and raised in California to parents who emigrated from Taiwan and whose ancestors came from the east coast of the Chinese mainland, Lin was encouraged by his parents, Lin Gie-ming and Shirley Lin, to play basketball from a young age.

He had stellar years at Palo Alto High School, where he was named first-team All-State and Northern California Division I Player of the Year.

With no sports scholarships offered by any of the universities to which he applied, Lin ended up at Harvard. From the weakest guy in the team in his freshman year, Lin became a consensus selection to the All-Ivy League First Team. He also became the first player in Ivy League history to record 1,450 points, 450 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals. Lin graduated in 2010 with a degree in economics and a 3.1 grade-point average.

However, his performance did not guarantee a smooth road ahead. Most NBA teams passed him over in the draft before he was selected by his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors.

But he was soon relegated to the Warrior's D-League for his lackluster performance and then dropped - before being picked by the Houston Rockets and then cut again.

The Knicks claimed Lin off waivers from the Rockets on Dec 27, 2011, to take a spot on the New York team's bench. The documentary shows how Lin practiced extremely hard during the NBA lockout that year.

His chance came at last - at a time when the Knicks had several injuries. In a desperate gamble, Coach Mike D'Antoni sent Lin into a game against the Brooklyn Nets. Lin scored 25 points, had five rebounds and seven assists, all career highs, in a 99-92 victory, something the Knicks had not seen for a long time.

Suddenly, the underdog Knicks seemed unstoppable with Lin. In a game against the high-flying Los Angeles Lakers, Lin's scored 38 points to the 34 notched by superstar Kobe Bryant.

Lin not only dominated the headlines, merchandise bearing his name or likeness also became best-sellers in NBA stores. In China, the world's second-largest NBA market, Lin, who now plays for the Rockets, has revived the NBA craze that had died down since the retirement of Yao Ming in 2011.

The 88-minute Linsanity played at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Co-producers Chris Chen and Brian Yang, who were present at the screening in Washington, talked about how they had started to follow a guy whom they never anticipated would become an NBA icon.

"This journey of Jeremy's has been remarkable," said Yang. "I'm just glad I've been along for part of the ride."

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