Jeremy Lin: An Underdog Story You Will Love


Jeremy Lin aka "Linsanity"

We love a great underdog story. Who doesn’t? Someone comes from against all odds and defies everything logical.

Many don’t give them hope, but they know something that we don’t.

We read those stories and it inspires us to the bone. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do, I truly believe reading stories of the underdogs gives you that push when you need it.

I love sports and the underdog stories that come out of it. Sports are still the best reality show on television. Hollywood couldn’t write it some of the unbelievable stories.

Last football season, there was Tim Tebow. Though he succeeded and won championships in high school, and college, many experts doubted he could succeed in the NFL. He couldn’t throw. He wasn’t a typical NFL quarterback.

Last season he took a 1-4 Denver team and took them to the playoffs. He was THE story in the NFL last season. Even Tebowing became a worlwide sensation.

Now in the NBA there is someone doing things no one could have imagined. You may not follow the NBA, but his story will definitely inspire you.

Jeremy Lin has taken the NBA by surprise in just one week. He went from sleeping on couches to having NBA players, celebrities, the media all talking about him. His story has truly been that insane. He’s gone from 70,000 to 199,314  Twitter followers in three days.

If you follow sports, then you know he’s the best story to come out of sports this year. If not, you’ll appreciate his story.

He’s the first American born Chinese player in the NBA. As a Chinese-American, I’m so excited for his success, but his story is inspiring for any race.

Before February 4th, he was sleeping on couches. His status as a professional basketball player was up in the air. Now? There’s one word to describe it: Linsanity.

From the beginning

His parents are from Taiwan. In Taiwan, they focus on academics over athletics, but his dad watched some basketball on TV and immediately fell in love with it.

He wanted to come to the US for two reasons: to finish his Ph.D and watch NBA basketball.

His first job in Los Angeles was long and hard so he wanted a way to relieve some stress. Basketball seemed like a great way.

There was one problem. He had never picked up a basketball before! He studied NBA players like he was studying for an exam. He emulated them.

It took years before he was comfortable playing a pickup game.

Later when he had three boys, he taught them the basics. He was their first basketball coach.

In high school, despite being a great player, Jeremy Lin was ridiculed for being Asian. Asians just don’t belong on the basketball court. By his senior year, he won the respect of those same people. Jeremy led his high school to a state championship.

Despite being the best player in California by many publications, he didn’t receive a single Division 1 scholarship offer.

Did race play a factor? He believes so.

Harvard offered him the chance to play, but offered no athletic scholarship. He jumped at the chance to play Division 1 basketball.

He excelled on the court, leading Harvard to new basketball heights. Yet he wasn’t drafted by any NBA team. Harvard just doesn’t produce many NBA players. There have been only four and none since 1954.

Jeremy Lin gets a shot at his dream…kinda

His hometown team, the Golden State Warriors signed him as a free agent in 2010. He barely played and only averaged 2.6 points a game, but cheered loudly by the Asian community every time he played. He was sent to the minor league a few times to work on his game.

It never worked out and he was released just after one season. The Houston Rockets signed him in the preseason this year and then released before the season began.

He was becoming another journeyman NBA basketball player. Two teams in less than two seasons.

He wanted to not just be on a team and sit at the end of the bench, but part of the mix.

He never lost his belief in his abilities.

From couch to savior for the New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden

The Knicks command a lot of attention in New York. It’s the Big Apple! Madison Square Garden is one of the most legendary arenas for basketball.

They’ve tried to put together an championship team since 1973. They have a lineup that looks great on paper. They have two superstars that make a combined $38 million this year, but came into February 4th losing 11 out of 13 games.

Jeremy Lin signed with the Knicks on December 27th. They had injuries and needed someone to be the third string point guard. He played sparingly in a few games, and then sent to the minor leagues again. He was played so well there, they recalled him just after one game.

With the team still struggling, the coach gave him a chance to play serious minutes on February 4th. Why not? They couldn’t be doing worse.

For Jeremy, this was his chance to seize the opportunity. He was playing for his NBA career (explanation later). To everyone’s surprise, he scored 25 points and the team won.

Was this just a fluke? No matter. The coach started him the next game. Then he started the next and the next. How did he do?

25 points, 7 assists and the win
28 points, 8 assists and the win
23 points, 10 assists and the win

This was without their best two players. Jeremy became THE best player on the team and made others play even better.

He was becoming the biggest superstar in a city that has many of them already. He went from a nobody to having the home fans were chanting M-V-P.

The coach said he had never seen anything like it before. That’s what everyone else was saying too.

Jeremy Lin vs Kobe Bryant

Then it was the real test again Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Just two seasons ago they won the NBA championship. The Knicks beat mediocre teams before, but now they were facing one of the best.

All the pressure would definitely get to him, right? Kobe Bryant would show this kid this was all pure luck.

Instead, Jeremy played the best game of his career.

He silenced all the doubters by scoring 38 point with seven assists! They dominated the Lakers 92-85.

Jeremy scored the most points in his first three starts than any other player since the NBA/ABA merger. More than Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant. Amazing.

His legend was growing by the game.

Linsanity really took off now. NBA players around the league were tweeting about his success. Players looking for a chance like him were inspired by what he had done. The media couldn’t get enough of his story.

Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson said, “The excitement [Lin] has caused in [Madison Square] Garden, man, I hadn’t seen that in a long time.”

Kobe Bryant said after the game, “If you can go back and look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning, but no one ever noticed. It’s a testament to perseverance and hard work. It is a good example to kids everywhere.”

How about the Houston Rockets who signed him but cut him in the preseason? The general manager admitted he made a mistake.

He’s given hope to a team that looked in bad shape. He was giving hope to a city desperate for a basketball hero.

He wasn’t even guaranteed to stick around. After the second game was the deadline to cut him and not have to guarantee the rest of his contract.

In fact, ESPN reported that the team was leaning towards letting him go before his breakout game. They had until Feb 6th to release him without having to pay the remainder of his $788,000 contract. They even were looking for his replacement. That’s why the coach gave him a chance to play. They had to evaluate him. That’s why he was playing for his career.

After his second start, and their third straight win, they guaranteed his contract.

Before he was sleeping on his brother’s couch. You can never be too sure when you’re playing for your contract, but now can afford a place of his own.

An undrafted player cut by two teams in only his second year isn’t supposed to do this. Harvard doesn’t produced NBA stars.

He’s defied all expectations. He probably couldn’t pay for his own meal in New York City if he wanted to.

His teammates talk about how this is the most fun they’ve had.

His jersey sold out in the arena. Television ratings in New York City are up. He’s getting tons of coverage in China and Taiwan, both who are crazy about the NBA.

Thus far, they’ve won six games in a row. His last name Lin, is being made into new words such as Linspirational, Linspiring, Linning, Lincredicble.

It’s a true underdog story that we can all appreciate.

Five lessons you can can learn from Jeremy Lin

  • Beyond his stats and the wins, he’s given so many out there hope. Hope that what they’re doing now will mean something in the future. Hope that others will achieve their dreams despite setbacks they have faced.
  • He didn’t let setbacks stop himself from working hard and waiting for that opportunity. His success the past week didn’t happen overnight. He excelled at every level through his hard work.
  • If he would have listened to those who doubted him, he would have given up his dream at playing basketball.
  • Despite the whirlwind media attention, he’s remained so humble after the game. He’s a team player first and foremost.
  • Finally, believe in yourself when no one else does.

Your turn

Have you overcome seemingly impossible odds and beat expectations to do something?

What are some great underdog stories you love?


Photo by and Kev Gilmour

Like what you read?
If so, please join to get exclusive weekly inspirational emails, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, Get a Life That Doesn't Suck. Just enter your name and email below:

Powered by WPSubscribers

33 responses to Jeremy Lin: An Underdog Story You Will Love

  1. I’ve never been a huge fan of watching basketball but Jeremy Lin has reignited what little passion I did have. It seems like he literally came out of nowhere but as you noted it’s been years in the making.

    It’s amazing how great you realize you are when you are playing for your life like Jeremy. great post, Benny.

    • It’s a great story! I don’t know how anyone can root against the guy. He’s fun to watch, he’s a team player, and he’s transformed that team. I hadn’t watched a full game at all this season, but I’ve watched a couple of his now. I hope he continues to do well!

  2. Benny, this is LINTERESTING and LINSPIRING. I read it word to word from beginning to the end and i really learnt alot form it. Just like what I was telling a friend some hours ago to always do the good and legit thing that one day, success will surely come his way.

    This story has helped me as well and I am going to continue to do what I believe in and hope success will come later.

    NOTE: Still raising the $1,000 I told you about on facebook 2 days ago. thanks for been a good friend.


    • Thanks so much Sheyi! I’m glad you read about his story. It’s really a great story and we can learn so much from what he is doing. Good luck on raising that $1,000. I’m sure you will do it.

      • Thanks alot Benny. Though it seems like hell now but like you said, I am definitely sure of raising the funds. Will you like to buy some established site? OR let’s talk about my site (the domain is great or what you think)


  3. Wow Benny,

    What a story. Thanks for taking the time to put this inspirational post together! I love these underdog stories. One of Copyblogger’s pretty recent posts was talking about how everyone loves an underdog (they drew the comparison to the storyline of Glee, not sure if you saw the post.)

    What we love about an underdog is that we can all relate to the struggle and the fact that nothing is easy in life. Most people tend to see the glory rather than the hard work that goes in. They see successful blogs and successful businesses but don’t take the time to understand the story of how they got to be so popular and successful. No doubt they had a huge struggle to get there.

    Stories like these also show us what “luck” is really about – it’s about putting yourself out there and looking for opportunities, not sitting on your ass hoping that something will magically land in your lap.

    There are many lessons we can learn if we’re starting an online business. To me, the most important one is that you always have doubters when you do something a little different from the norm. If someone hasn’t had a business of their own, they can’t really relate to you if your starting your own business. They see the risk instead of the potential rewards. But the truth is, there’s risks in everything we do, and that’s part of having a business. It’s the doers not the thinkers who get the results.

    It also shows how important hard work and perseverance is. I think the best thing to do is surround yourself with like-minded people who are doing something similar; people who will encourage you but also be honest and point out problem areas that you might not have noticed.

    • I didn’t see that post on Copyblogger, but I will go check it out. Great point about surrounding yourself with like-minded people. I’m sure Jeremy was surrounded by people who told him to stay positive.

      I agree with you on all your points! So many want to get the big reward, but then start to do the work and think “wow this is pretty hard” and then give up. People just want the end result. Luck happens to those who work hard.

      Thanks for your comment. Great to see you here Robert!

  4. Great, well-researched article. If you want to see Lin in action:

  5. Good post Benny. Jeremy Lin is definitely an inspiration. He is a guy who has been overlooked time and time again. I agree with what Kobe said about Jeremy Lin. The skill has always been there, he just was never given a fair shot, but he definitely made the most of it when that time came. Hard work and dedication can take you places you never imagined you’d be. What I have learned from Jeremy Lin is to be resilient. When people count you out, work a little harder.

    • I hope he can keep this up. I know he’s going to run into some days when he has a horrible game, but you know he’s going to work hard to get better. He’s practiced all his life for that moment when his back was against the wall. He needed to perform well. Glad he did! Thanks for your comment Aaron.

  6. Great post!
    Purely awesome, I think it just goes to show that once you start showing people the tallent that you’ve got, eventually they are going to pick up on it and push you up even further.

    When you know your passion, keep it ignited and shine 😀

  7. Oh man, I’m a huge NBA fan and it’s super inspiring to watch J-Lin do what he’s doing. Even when he stomped all over my Lakers the other night (which was not cool, by the way), I was still (secretly) rooting for him. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits into the rotation when they get some of their main starters back in the lineup.

    • I still can’t believe he’s keeping this level of play up. It’s such a great story and I hope he continues the rest of the season. Even my dad, who never watches the NBA, watches his game. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Knicks do with better competition. They’ve played some bad teams but they have the Mavericks and Heat coming up.

  8. I just can’t say how much I respect this lad. From being a mediocre fellow sleeping on couches to a NBA celebrity beats any great fantasy stories.
    I saw the match between the Knicks and the Lakers, and this fellow was superb. He seemed to be better than Kobe Bryant at the game. Hope he goes on to become a great legend of the game.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • It really is a great story! He’s brining in a lot of non-sports fans. If he keeps it up, he’s going to be hugely successful off the court as well. Thanks for reading!

  9. His story is amazing. They (whoever they are) say that most people quit right before they’re about to succeed. I’m sure he’s had moments when he thought of packing it in. But look at him now. Success was right around the corner.

    • Success was just right around the corner for sure. I believe he was never going to quit even though two teams released him. He had his chance and he’s making the most of his opportunity. Thanks for your comment!

  10. You are very right that underdogs can serve as some of the best motivation and that Hollywood could never write a script that can top some of the best upsets in sporting history. Take for example last year, Trevor Bayne, a rookie, winning the Daytona 500, the Great American race as it is known. His fame shot up overnight and he gained some 500,000 twitter followers as well as renewed career prospects.

    These events give us renewed confidence in ourselves and makes us realize that we all have it in us to succeed at something and that we just need to find the strength and determination in ourselves to give it everything.


    • Great example about Trevor Bayne! I’m not a fan of racing, but I did see his name mentioned during this whole Jeremy Lin craziness. Though his fame shot up overnight, it was the result of years of hard work I’m sure.

  11. Definitely LINSPIRING post! His story should keep anyone on clinging to that hope. Lin never made it to showcase his ability not until he was about to lose a good contract. This is how his limits were tested. And now, the world has seen how a great basketball player he is. Setbacks are there to make us work harder and pursue our dreams even better!

    • Thanks for your comment Spatch! He had tons of setbacks. In an interview recently, he said he cried himself to sleep last year when things weren’t going as he had hoped. He even doubted his future as an NBA player before this season started. But he kept fighting and got his chance. Now he’s the real deal and a worldwide star! Thanks for reading.

  12. Hey Benny,

    Inspirational Post!

    Thanks a ton for writing this blog post 😀 I don’t actually keep up with sports, so this is the first time I hear about Jeremy Lin (I don’t keep up with news, either). But, awesome story. After reading this (I read this the day you published it but forgot to leave a comment), I decided to take up another challenge – to leave 100 quality comments for 5 days on various blogs 😀

    I had this challenge in my mind ever since I had been successful with my writing challenge – writing an average of 2 posts per weekday.

    I think the biggest and the best thing I have now is lots of time, I just have to spent it smartly.

    Anyways, thanks again for the awesome post,

    Off to leave my other 90 comments for today.

    Jeevan Jacob John

    • Great challenge Jeevan! It’s very possible. Plus you have lots of time. Definitely great to use that free time wisely. Thanks for reading about Jeremy. Glad I could introduce his story to you!

  13. Hi Benny

    you told his story very well. i read a bit about him too seeing i used to play basketball as well
    and esp as he’s chinese he’s caught a lot of attention here!
    it’s a great perseverance story. but if i could add, that to go from here, and I hope Lin exhibits the true Chinese humility despite outward success. the sudden peak could be overwhelming, and i hope he manages the fame and glory well, and that it won’t change him.
    if so, then it’s someone we can truly emulate 🙂

    Noch Noch

    • I know his story is so popular in China! It’s so crazy in Taiwan and especially here! He did say all the attention is a bit overwhelming. He asked the media in Taiwan to leave his relatives alone. They can’t go to work without being followed!

      However, he’s remained humble throughout. He’s also still playing very well, even though people expected this performance to not last too long.

      So far it does seem like he’s handling it all well. I’m glad too because I would hate to see all this success go to his head. I don’t think that’ll happen though.

  14. I love watching basketball but most of the time I watch it I didn’t memorize all the players. I just sit and watch and enjoy. Reading his biography, I also learned lots of things. Yes it’s true that before you can achieve your goals in life you must encounter many obstacles so that you will learn from it.

    I love the quote by Thomas Edison.

    • Thanks for reading Farrel. I know many non-basketball fans are watching his story. It’s a great story and he continues to excel. The best is that he’s remaining humble and not letting all thise go to his head.

  15. Hi Benny!
    I finally found the moment to read the whole story. Firstly I need to tell you that I love basketball. I was playing when I was at school and my dream was to become a professional basketball player. That did not happen because I studied engineering (nothing to do with sports) but basketball always stays in my heart.
    I don’t play basketball anymore but as I am very fan of sports I practice others sports such us aerobic, capoeira (love it but I am not good), swimming, jogging…..
    I love this story and I love the lesson of the story. My favorite message in this story presented by you: believe in yourself when no one else does!
    Great article Benny.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • You sound very active! Basketball is great exercise too. I know when I play, even for a few minutes, I get really tired. LOL. I believe any underdog story has a common theme. That is the person believes in themselves. They prove others wrong. Sometimes they use that as motivation. Thanks for taking the time to read Lenia!

      • He he, Yes Benny you are absolutely right! I am active 🙂 On the other hand I too when I play for a few minutes I get tired because I am not used any more! I was young when I started playing 😛
        You are welcome Benny, it is a pleasure to read you!

  16. You can’t deny talent. That’s what Jeremy Lin’s got. There are people who underestimate talent, but they shouldn’t. Talent shines forth and will kick the naysayers out of the game before they can finish their tirades about how somebody’s not going to make it. He’s an inspiration.

  17. Watching a dream is too easy but fulfilling it is so difficult is concluded after reading about this great man,,JEREMY LINN.The only thing one needs to live with is self belief.For those who have it no wall is big enough to pause or even stop him!
    Hats off to LINN!!!
    Thank you for providing with this article…