Jeremy Lin was a relatively unknown player in the NBA – the world’s pre-eminent professional basketball league – until he led the New York Knicks on an unlikely winning streak in 2012, sparking the phenomenon known as “Linsanity.”
Lin’s rise to the pinnacle of the sport is a lesson in perseverance. He received no athletic scholarships after finishing high school but became a college star at Harvard University. Undrafted out of college, Lin was passed between several NBA teams before finally finding global recognition in New York.
Lin, the first American of Chinese descent to play in the NBA, is now a free agent, and was at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016 to talk about his journey to the top, and the opportunity for sports leaders to be role models for the younger generation.
“I’m a zoo animal”
On dealing with fame, Lin said: “At first I felt like I lost my privacy when everything happened. Everywhere I went people wanted a picture … a video or an autograph.
“At first I got really upset and then I felt like I'm just a zoo animal. People just stop by and take a picture and then they go on their way … As I got older I really appreciated or embraced the platform that comes with it. I have a voice ... I'm able to impart my values.”
Dealing with success is all about focusing on the here and now, rather than the next step on the career ladder, he added.
“I remember how fleeting that moment of success was. I was happy but then two or three weeks later, all I'm thinking about is the next game, because if I don't play well then there's a backlash, and if I play well there's the next game.
“After the season is the next season. That's when I had an epiphany moment where, if being on top of the world isn't good enough, then what is? That's where I started to take another step spiritually.”
Humility is the “greatest strength”
Lin said that he tries to “steal” an attribute from all the best players he comes up against, but that the greatest strength an athlete - or any other person – can have is humility.
“If you ask me, ‘why is my high school coach such a great coach? It's because he never thought he knew it all.”
“Humility is a strength because, if you look at this past year, why did we as the Hornets, why did we exceed expectations? We were expected to finish thirteenth in the Eastern Conference. We finished sixth and we're half a game out from finishing third. It's because we had humility on that team.
“We're willing to sacrifice, we're willing to play for each other. I think if you look at teams that overachieve, a big part is they are very humble … I think there's a big difference between being humble and being stepped on.”
You can watch the interview with Jeremy Lin in full here.