Livin’ His Dream
A unique look at Jeremy Lin’s journey from up close and afar.
The national rise of Jeremy Lin may have appeared like lightening in a bottle. But Lin, like other great players, put in work for his chance to shine on the game’s highest plateau. Just ask former Stanford Cardinal, Anthony Goods, whose encounters (on and off) with Lin date back to Lin’s days at Palo Alto High. By now, you’ve read and heard about Linsanity, but you’ve never heard it from someone who literally experienced it all from jump. Check this out.—Ed.
by Anthony Goods / @AntGoods
My freshman year at Stanford, I was introduced to a high school senior by the name of Jeremy Lin. I thought we were complete strangers with nothing in common. But from that moment, our lives have actually been traveling in the same direction, just in different lanes. It appears we had the same destination—yet Jeremy’s reached his, and I’m still trying to find my way.
Lin’s breakout campaign with the Knicks raised many eyebrows in the basketball world, but those who followed his path close enough have known his rise was inevitable.
I met Jeremy in 2005 on his unofficial visit to Stanford. He was just a kid who was enrolled across the street at Palo Alto High School with dreams of attending Stanford. By spring of 2006, my first season out of high school was coming to a close and the whole town was talking about Paly High, and this Lin kid so much it was like Stanford didn’t even exist. Palo Alto High School had just defeated Mater Dei in the state championship, a huge upset in California. Mater Dei is the Duke of SoCal basketball, but on the biggest stage, Jeremy shook the state of California.
It was “Linsanity” in its adolescent form.
Many in the community thought since he won the state championship, Stanford would offer him a scholarship. It would’ve been a fairytale ending to a high school career but even with an open scholarship, we chose to bring in somebody else. Seeing Jeremy Lin play basketball at Harvard led me to believe he wasn’t as good as his hype in the Silicon Valley.
The ups and downs of the college transition kept Jeremy’s freshman season on ice. The following summer however, I remember he reached out to one of my teammates to see if he could come play with us at open gym. As arrogant as it sounds, Jeremy got put on the Stanford “we’ll call you if we need numbers” list. Basically, we didn’t think he was good enough, so we figured we’d let him play if our guys had to miss an open gym. Had Jeremy played for an ACC school, he would’ve been at every open gym. But the underdog gets no love; not even in his backyard.
His sophomore year got underway and this arrogant Stanford team had Harvard scheduled for the first game of the year. Leading up to the game, the town was vibrant because Jeremy Lin was making his return to the Bay against the school that wouldn’t offer him a scholarship. As fans began seating themselves during warm ups, it was clear our fans forgot who the home team was. Every other t-shirt read “The Jeremy Lin Show.”
As a team, we were all somewhat furious that our fans overtly supported an opponent of ours. Before our head coach Trent Johnson walked in, I looked on the board and saw that I had to guard Jeremy Lin. He was obviously the star of the evening so I was excited to take on the challenge, especially since the fans came to see Jeremy do damage.
The gym was buzzing and half of our courtside seats were occupied by Jeremy Lin fans. We broke our final pre-game huddle, and I was walking out to center court when Trent yanked me by the arm. Coach Johnson looked me directly in my eye, put his finger in my face and said, “that mother [explicative] doesn’t score!” In all honesty, I was afraid of Trent, so if he would’ve told me to punch Jeremy at the jump ball I probably would’ve done it. Him telling me this before the game put my mind in another level of focus and I executed the plan flawlessly.
Jeremy didn’t score a single point, and he fouled out. I ended the game with 17 points and a 50-point victory, which was the sweetest way of giving the finger to the fair-weather fans.
Jeremy gained some national attention as a junior by dismantling a ranked Boston College team on the road. It was a huge win for a school like Harvard to beat a ranked opponent, and I could get the sense Jeremy wasn’t the same player who came into Maples Pavilion a year ago. Jeremy took his team to a .500 record for the first time in years and the tides were beginning to turn.
When summer 2009 came, somebody from Jeremy Lin’s camp got in touch with my trainer Frank Matrisciano, so Jeremy started to attend our basketball workouts. I hadn’t seen Jeremy play for over a year at this point, but it didn’t take long for me to notice his improvement. We would often play five-on-five, and Jeremy would hold his own against other college players and professionals who were in the workouts. At this point, I could see Jeremy was a little better at everything than I expected. He was a step a quicker, a bit stronger, and a much better passer than I would’ve ever gave him credit for until then. That being said, I still didn’t think he was NBA-bound.
As basketball season arrived, my trainer invited me to attend Jeremy’s game versus Santa Clara since I was in the Bay rehabbing an injury. Apparently, the hype for this game was going to be crazy because Lin was having a exceptional year. A month prior to this game Jeremy scored 30 points against a ranked UConn team on the road. Now that he was coming home and as anticipated, the gym was packed. Actually, it was beyond packed: standing room only!
Over half of the crowd was of Asian decent and were there to support Jeremy Lin. I got my seat next to Frank as we watched the game and listened to the crowd “Ooo” and “Aaahh” over everything Jeremy did on the court. He didn’t even do anything too spectacular, as he finished with 6 points and 9 assists, but you would’ve thought he changed the game with the type of reception he was getting.
At one point during the game, a reporter noticed me in the stands and asked me why I was at the game. I just responded, “I’m here to watch the Jeremy Lin Show.” After the game, Jeremy came out talk to us, and he was greeted by fans asking for autographs and taking pictures. Jeremy was so humble he didn’t seem phased by the attention at all. Little did we know this was just beginning.
A great college career came to a close and Jeremy entered the professional world as an undrafted free agent. Jeremy got on the summer league roster with the Dallas Mavericks and was playing quite well. The NBA summer league is always a toss up because even if you make it on a roster, there isn’t a good percentage of undrafted players who actually get an opportunity to play. Jeremy Lin, however, was given the opportunity and was taking advantage.
His numbers were good, but nothing too spectacular so I didn’t think much of his performance in the summer league other than he would probably get a really good job overseas. To my surprise, weeks later I turn on the news to see the Golden State Warriors had signed Jeremy Lin to a contract. I was so shocked I had to text Frank to see if what I heard was correct. It was surprising to the both of us. The same kid who couldn’t get into a Stanford open gym would be playing for the Golden State Warriors? True story! And the smile on his face during the press conference said it all: He earned it!
Over the next week, Jeremy’s signing was the talk of the basketball community in the Bay Area. Everybody at every gym had an opinion about it. Rumors were flying left and right. Most often, I heard the Warriors only signed him because of the Bay Area’s Asian population. Others in the Stanford area said the Warriors signed him because his best friend’s dad is the new owner of the Warriors. Regardless of what people were saying, the truth of the matter is Jeremy performed well in summer league and he got rewarded.
Jeremy’s rookie season didn’t go so well for him. In January, the Warriors sent him down to the D-League to get game reps since he wasn’t playing in the NBA. We bumped into each other at the D-League showcase in Texas. For NBA players, the money is the same, but D-League travel and housing accommodations are a far cry from the “Promised Land” (the NBA). When I asked Jeremy how he liked the D-League, he humbly responded, “It’s cool!” If I had never spoken to him before maybe I would’ve been surprised, but that is the type of guy he is. For him, the D-League is a great opportunity to get playing time, so I understood how he may enjoy it.
The next day at the D-League showcase, Jeremy showed he’d been playing with better competition by dismantling the other team with ease. With a representative from every NBA team in the building, I thought for sure he’d have job security for a while. But then again, he was doing this in the D-League, not the NBA. Whatever the case, his stint in the NBDL was quite impressive before getting recalled to the Warriors.