For years after the three-week stretch that made him an international phenomenon, Jeremy Lin went out of his way to avoid saying “Linsanity.”
The word, which he trademarked in 2012 to prevent strangers from profiting off his image, carried too much trauma. It had been coined by Knicks fans to describe their excitement for an unheralded reserve who blossomed — seemingly overnight — into a franchise hero, but it took on a less complimentary meaning when Lin failed to recapture the greatness he exhibited during those 18 days in February.
As Lin ping-ponged among six franchises in seven years before heading to China in August 2019 when no NBA team signed him in free agency, he came to view Linsanity as a painful reminder of his unfulfilled promise. His legacy was seemingly distilled to less than a month’s worth of games when he couldn’t do enough to be remembered for more.
But over the past year, therapy sessions and a memorable season in his maternal grandmother’s home country helped Lin come to terms with his place in basketball history. His recent decision to forgo a seven-figure contract in China and sign with Golden State’s G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, for less than the average elementary school teacher’s salary was rooted in little more than a desire to prove to himself that he still belongs in the NBA.
As one of the faces of the Chinese Basketball Association, Lin lived in a penthouse apartment in downtown Beijing, rode to practices in the backseat of a luxury sedan and often navigated throngs of autograph-seekers to reach the hotel elevator. Now, nine years removed from his last G League game, he is back in a level he remembers best for the time he and his Erie BayHawks teammates ate saltine crackers all day before a game in Portland, Maine, because the team bus had broken down during a snowstorm.
“In China, I had so much fan support and so many amazing things going on,” said Lin, who paced the Beijing Ducks last season in scoring (22.3 points per game), assists (5.6 per game) and steals (1.8 per game). “To surrender all of that and to come here, honestly, some people think I’m crazy.”
After his Ducks were beaten in the CBA’s semifinals in early August, Lin returned to his parents’ house in Palo Alto. Each morning, around 4 or 5, he awoke as questions about his future raced through his mind: Would he be comfortable finishing his career in front of adoring fans in China? Would he always have a gnawing regret that he hadn’t given the NBA another shot?
Lin had heard from his agent that NBA teams weren’t impressed by gaudy stats against inferior competition in the CBA. His quickest route back to the sport’s top level would be through the G League, from where 35 players were called up to the NBA last season.
At age 32, Lin recognizes that he can’t afford to waste time. His hope is that, after a dozen or so games with Santa Cruz at the Orlando bubble, he’ll land an NBA contract and show that he should never have had to leave the league in the first place.
That is important personal growth, but he isn’t content stopping there. Instead of returning to China, where he could revel in being one of the biggest celebrities in a basketball-crazed country of nearly 1.4 billion people, Lin figures he owes it to himself and his fans to see whether he can author another inspirational story.
Source: SF Chronicle