Jeremy Lin is on the verge of signing a multi-year NBA deal. League insider Marc Stein tweeted that Jeremy Lin is going home to the Bay Area to play for the Golden State Warriors. Other interested suitors included the LA Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, and an unnamed Eastern Conference team. Compared to the other suitors, Golden State was his best opportunity for NBA playing time in the near future. Hyphen covered Jeremy Lin last December, then as broader media coverage followed, and also as he finished the season as a finalist for the John Wooden and Bob Cousy awards, for the country's best Division-I basketball player and best point guard.
If Stein's ESPN report is true, then Jeremy Lin has finally made it to the pros after a long uphill climb. I have a feeling that Jeremy Lin jerseys will be flying off Bay Area shelves in the next year (not to mention all over Asia as well).
I have seen Lin play three times this season, followed his performances at the Portsmouth Invitational (similar to the NFL Senior Bowl), and also at the NBA summer leagues. He is physical, fearless offensively with an extremely high basketball IQ, a leader who makes his teammates better, and who still has lots of room to become even better with more experience.
Lin started receiving legitimate interest from other teams after he arguably outplayed John Wall (the NBA's 2010 #1 overall draft pick) in a summer league game last week. Sites like YouTube and other internet basketball sites helped create immense buzz for Lin after this. In their 4th quarter head to head match up, Lin scored 11 4th-quarter points, and held Wall to 0 for 6 shooting, on top of some hyper-athletic steals and offensive spin moves.
Naysayers may think that it was only one quarter, but those who have followed Lin know that he has shined against multiple players in college who were 1st round draft picks, as well as against powerhouse Division-I teams. He led Harvard to its best season in over 60 years (if not its best season ever), and this was after leading his high school team to a state championship (a major upset). Jeremy Lin is probably California state's only HS State Player of the Year who was never offered a Division-I athletic scholarship. Despite his stellar college career, he was passed over again in the 2010 NBA draft. Jeremy Lin has earned his success (and respect) the hard way, every step of the way, by making the most of limited opportunities. It feels like every time he succeeds and moves onto a bigger stage, he has to win over a fresh new audience and overcome the same obstacles and discrimination all over again.
I noticed in the summer league games that Jeremy Lin was playing with a chip on his shoulder, which bodes well for his future team, and the opposite for every team that passed on him. Lin's hunger and pre-professional history remind me of some parallels with a a winner in another sport who was overlooked multiple times in his career: football quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Brady, a Bay Area native himself, wasn't recruited by any major colleges out of high school until his father made a compilation videotape for him and mass mailed every school. When Brady joined Michigan, he was behind several other quarterbacks on the depth chart. After a clutch career in college, Brady was overlooked and slipped to the 6th round of the NFL draft. Pro scouting reports said he was too slow, too frail, not quick enough mentally, didn't have the arm strength, and was a career backup at best. Being overlooked, repeatedly, helped motivate and fuel Brady to eventually become a star in the NFL, playing in front of a very supportive Irish American community in New England. Tom Brady can probably empathize with what Jeremy Lin has been through, as an overlooked athlete who succeeded everywhere, but still kept getting dismissed.
The beginning of Jeremy Lin's pro career can't be any sweeter, to be able to play in the Bay Area in front of what will be very supportive fans. He will no doubt immediately become a fan favorite. Jeremy Lin's feel good story as a hard-working, humble, team-first underdog who made the most of limited opportunities, is also a nice contrast to recent NBA stories about player self-promotion and entitlement.
[Update]: It looks like the Warriors deal has been confirmed.