Yesterday Dana O'Neil wrote an excellent ESPN piece about basketball extraordinaire Jeremy Lin, the star and captain of Harvard's basketball team. One of the most amusing parts of his life story are that his basketball-fanatic immigrant father, who never played basketball himself, taught his son how to play by modeling moves after Hall of Fame NBA legends. Not only is Lin now one of the best players in the Ivy League, but he is one of the best basketball players in all of NCAA Division-I basketball, and has put up all-star performances against some of the best March Madness tournament teams in the country. Here is a compilation of Jeremy Lin putting up 30 points against NCAA powerhouse UConn last week. A few days later, Lin scored 25 points in Harvard's upset win over Boston College.
Some experts have written that Jeremy has a decent chance to get drafted by the NBA. That is, unless discrimination based on his race/ethnicity gets in the way, as O'Neil's piece also mentions, about the obstacles (and slurs) Lin has had to and continues to overcome from fans, other players, and basketball recruiters and scouts.
Judging from an older SF Chronicle article, Jeremy seems to take a Jackie Robinson-like stance on things. Based on his high school performance, I believe Lin would have been recruited by other Division-I schools if he had a different last name. Instead, Harvard was the only D-I school to offer him a chance to play (no scholarship). I can't think of any other former California state High School Player of the Year, in any major sport, who didn't get offered a D-I athletic scholarship. While Black Americans have made advancements and overcome obstacles as pro athletes, coaches, and executives in American athletics, it's Asian Americans who now face challenges due to their race/ethnicity. Lin's current coach, who has four NCAA D-I championships as a player or coach, says Lin has the talent to play professionally.
Other Hyphen-related articles about Jeremy Lin:
Jeremy Lin Story Gaining Nationwide Interest
Jeremy Lin a Finalist for Bob Cousy and John Wooden Awards
Jeremy Lin on Verge of NBA Contract
Jeremy Lin's resilience and story remind me of other Asian Americans involved in athletics, like coach Norm Chow, whose opportunities for NFL coaching jobs, in my opinion, have been disappointing given exemplary and record-setting achievements in the Division-I college game. Like Lin, I think Chow would have had much a more successful sports career, and certainly more opportunities, if the race markers had been different.
Finally, the struggles of these Asian American athletes for relevance and opportunities in American culture, remind me very much of the struggles Asian American actors face in the entertainment industry. Out of marketing considerations, Asian actors like Jackie Chan and Jet Li are given more attention and resources, while incredibly talented Asian American actors may wait by the wayside. Similarly, in professional sports, far more attention and opportunity are reserved for Asian athletes like Ichiro Suzuki and Yao Ming, than are for deserving Asian Americans involved in athletics. On a related note, here's a fairly recent Hyphen piece about an Asian actor cast for a role that appeared to be perfect for an Asian American actor.