The NBA’s Taiwanese Tebow? Knicks Jeremy Lin Redefining Perceptions of Asian-American Christians

Lin’s Appeal: Faith, Pride and Points


Jeremy Lin has given Asian-Americans a popular sports figure to relate to. (Photo:Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Last weekend, I was driving home when my BlackBerry buzzed with a text message from a Korean-American friend from my church: “You watching J Lin tearing it up?”

I texted back, “Really??”

He filled me in: “25 pts, 5 reb, 7 assists, 2 steals. Garden was going wild. Carmelo and Amar’e were going crazy. Announcers were effusive.”

A surge of emotion welled up inside me — a mix of utter astonishment, joy and pride.

“It’s a miracle,” I said to my wife, only half-joking.

“J Lin” is Jeremy Lin, the undrafted point guard fromHarvard who has emerged from seemingly nowhere to become the toast of New York and Asian-Americans everywhere with his surprising star turn for the Knicks.

On Monday, I rushed home from work to find a live stream of the Knicks-Jazz game. (Time Warner, my cable provider, removed the MSG channels because of a dispute over subscriber fees.) Lin turned in another jaw-dropping performance, and did it again Wednesday in Washington. The Lakers game on Friday proved nearly too much for me to handle.

Yes, Linsanity.

But it also represented much more than that, at least to me.

Like Lin, I’m a Harvard graduate, albeit more than a decade ahead of him, and a second-generation Chinese-American. I’m also a fellow believer, one of those every-Sunday-worshiping, try-to-read-the-Bible-and-pray types, who agreed with Lin when he said to reporters after the Jazz game, “God works in mysterious and miraculous ways.”

Being a believer can mean different things in different circles. In a lot of the ones Lin and I have traveled, it can mean, essentially, you are a bit of a weirdo, or can make you an object of scorn.

For me, as an Asian-American, the chants of “M.V.P.!” raining down on Lin at the Garden embody a surreal, Jackie Robinson-like moment. Just as meaningful to me as a Christian, however, is the way the broadcasters have hailed Lin as not just the “Harvard hero” but the “humble Harvard grad.” His teammates appear just as overjoyed at his success as he was. Both seem to be testaments to his character.

Some have predicted that Lin, because of his faith, will become the Taiwanese Tebow…

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