by Rick Wise, EVP/Relationship Banking, Scott Valley Bank Walnut Creek office
I must admit, like many basketball fans, I have a case of “Linsanity.” I know this spring I should have been focused on March Madness. I much prefer the spirit, teamwork, and fundamentals of college basketball to the National Basketball Association. But, the Jeremy Lin story is so compelling that I have been caught up in it. I’m sorry he is injured, but, it is a great story with lessons for all of us.
You have probably heard his story by now: despite leading Palo Alto High to the state championship, Lin did not receive any college basketball scholarship offers and chose to attend Harvard, a non-scholarship university. After a great career at Harvard, he was again overlooked and was not drafted by any NBA teams. He was eventually picked up by his “hometown” Golden State Warriors and spent the 2010-11 season shuttling between the Warriors and their development league team in Reno. Although rarely playing in Oakland, he was a fan favorite due, in part, to being one of the few Asian players to ever play in the NBA. This season he was cut by the Warriors and the Houston Rockets before signing with the New York Knicks as their fourth point guard. He didn’t rent an apartment in New York and slept on either his brother’s or teammate’s couch because he did know how long he would be around. This is where the story gets good!
On February 4, the Knicks were 8-15 and the coach was so frustrated that he stuck in the kid at the end of the bench that he had not seen play much. Lin responded by scoring 25 points with 7 assists, outplaying New Jersey Nets All-Star Deron Williams and leading the Knicks to a 99-92 victory. Lin continued his torrid play and led the Knicks to 7 straight victories, scoring more points in his first 5 starts than any player in 35 years. On February 10 he outscored Kobe Bryant 38 to 34 and the Knicks beat the Lakers, and on February 14 he hit a 3-pointer with less than a second to go to beat Toronto. The Knicks have had their ups and downs since Lin’s hot start , but were looking like a competitive play-off team before Lin’s recent knee injury. Regardless, Jeremy Lin is a solid point guard who should have a great career. With his pun-friendly name, “LinCredible” play and, at times, “LinGenious” moves, he has become an international phenomenon. He has the best-selling jersey in the NBA. So how did it happen and what are some lessons we can all learn from this?
Jeremy Lin prepared himself for this opportunity. He is typically the first one at practice and the last to leave. He is terrific at the dribble drive and has mastered the pick and roll. He has worked hard on his jump shot and three pointers. In the off-season he undertook an extremely rigorous work-out regimen. He increased his strength, added 15 pounds of muscle, and improved his jumping ability and lateral quickness. He was ready when he got his chance. But he also has demonstrated the values and maturity to maintain his focus and handle his sudden fame.
Commenting on Lin, Kobe Bryant said “players playing that well don’t usually come out of nowhere…his skill level was probably there from the beginning. It probably just went unnoticed.” Former GE CEO, Jack Welch and his author wife, Suzy, noted that Lin’s success should be a lesson to business leaders to not let bureaucracy stifle unproven talent.
So, I’m not ashamed to admit my case of “Linsanity”. I’m happy that he got his chance and, since he is only 23 years old, I look forward to watching him play for many years. It is a reminder to managers to be aware of the great talent that surrounds them, and it is inspiring to follow a humble person who has worked so hard to achieve “instant” success.