Thursday, February 16, 2012

God's Glory Displayed Through LinSanity

“LinSanity” is the most surprising and, probably, even the best story in the NBA this season.  Game after game, he proves that the hype is real.  Game after game, more and more notice and become believers of LinSanity (in my case, it took me till that game with the Lakers to be convinced this Lin is special).  Sure, 6 games is still a small sample size, but, nonetheless those 6 games weren’t insignificant at all.  Prior to the explosion of Linsanity, the New York Knicks were struggling badly (had a record of 8-15) as their stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were sidelined because of injuries.  Now thanks to this 6’3 American-Taiwanese point guard who was nearly at the point of being cut by the team before becoming an overnight sensation, new life is breathed to these Knicks, as they won those 6 games thanks to Lin.

Lin’s meteoric rise is fascinating.  After playing for and graduating from Harvard University, Jeremy Lin entered the 2010 draft but was ignored and left undrafted.  However, the Dallas Mavericks – the eventual champions that incoming season – offered him to participate in their mini-camp and to play for their NBA Summer League team.   Lin got noticed during the Summer League when during a game against the draft’s first pick John Wall, he outplayed and stole the cheers from him.  Afterwards, teams offered to sign him (including my beloved Lakers) and he chose to join the Golden State Warriors – his favorite team to watch while growing up.  Lin would experience getting assigned to the D-League three times during his rookie season, but would be recalled by the Warriors each time. 

During the first day of training camp for the current season, Lin was waived by the Warriors.  The Houston Rockets would pick him up but would waive him before the start of the season.  It was the New York Knicks that would pick him up next.

Lin – being a third-string point guard – would once again be assigned to the D-League by the Knicks.  During that season, the Knicks were actually considering releasing Lin before his contract become guaranteed so they can make room for a new player.  But fate has other plans.  Lin would be given a chance to play by coach Mike D’Antoni.  On a game against New Jersey, teammate Carmelo Anthony (who was and still currently sidelined due to injury) suggested to D’Antoni during the half time to give more minutes to Lin.  Lin had 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists – all career highs at that point – in that game as the Knicks won the game.  Prior to that game, Lin only played a total of 55 minutes through the Knicks’ first 23 games.  In the next game, which was against the Utah Jazz, Lin had his first career start and would finish with 28 points and eight assists and a win.  Then in the Knicks’ next game, with the Washington Wizards, Lin had his first double-double of 23 points and 10 assists. 

Leading the Knicks to a 3 game winning streak, Lin would face his greatest challenge against my favorite Kobe and the Lakers.  And in that game, it made me believe that the hype is real (and made me annoyed that the Lakers weren’t aggressive enough to recruit him when they had the chance).  Kobe, who is known to perform some of his best stuff in the big stage of Madison Square Garden (remember the 61 points a few season back?), was set on dismissing the rising legend of Lin as a mere myth.  Kobe intended to make Lin bow down to basketball royalty.  But Lin was never intimidated, he never backed down.  He rose to the challenge on clashing with a basketball god.  
And he was victorious.  Jeremy Lin outplayed Kobe (who had 34 points) and demolished the Lakers with 38 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals.  Prior the game, Kobe was a bemused unbeliever.  During the game, Kobe would finally acknowledge Lin as a worthy challenge when he started guarding him.  
Afterwards, stubborn as Kobe may be, he does give props when it is due, and acknowledged that Lin is no fluke.  “Players don’t come out of nowhere,” Kobe said.  The Black Mamba would go on complimenting him and showing his brand of respect by recognizing Lin as someone worth seeking revenge on.  “Enjoy it.  They’ll receive judgment next year,” he said, obviously looking forward for the next duel.    

Lin’s legend continues after it.  He had 20 points and 8 assists over the Minnesota Timberwolves, as he made a game-winning free throw that lifted the Knicks.  Lin would be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.  And a game after earning that honor, he had 27 points and 11 assists and made the gamewinning threepointer against the Toronto Raptors.  LinSanity fever gets hotter and hotter.   

Being an underdog and a nobody who became successful through hard work, he is a hero, model and inspiration for everybody (especially to Asians).  As Kobe Bryant pointed out, “A great story.  It’s a testament to perseverance and hard work. A good example for kids everywhere.”                        

But more than that, there is one thing about Jeremy Lin that makes him really special (and once I learned of it, it made me to finally root for him).  He is a Christian.

Thanks to a video of his testimony that is getting viral around Christian circles, we learn of Lin’s motivation and attitude towards the game.  The highlight of that testimony is when he quoted John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life”:
“God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.” 
Lin would elaborate:
“When Paul wrote in Philippians to press on for an upward prize, he was living for that, and it made his life meaningful (Philippians 3:15). And I realized I had to learn to do the same. I had to learn to stop chasing the perishable prizes of this earth, I had to stop chasing personal glory, I had to learn how to give my best effort to God and trust him with the results. I have to learn to have enough faith to trust in his grace and to trust in his sovereign and perfect plan. I had to submit my will, my desires, my dreams — give it all up to God and say, ‘Look, I am going to give my best effort, go on the court and play every day for you, and I'm going to let you take care of the rest.’ This is something I struggle with every day.  Playing for great stats is nice, but that satisfaction — that happiness — is only from game to game. It's temporary.”                

For me, the perfect NBA player would be something of a combination of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Jeremy Lin.  LeBron has the raw talent, athleticism, and physique that allowed him to overwhelm opponents by those alone.  Kobe has the obsessive competitive fire, mental and physical toughness, and the rich skill-set.  Lin has the strongest motivation to give his all in everything (better than Kobe’s competitive fire) since he is doing those things for God.  Mix them all together and that would be lethal.  Still, these three types of players standing alone, Jeremy Lin would be still my pick, not necessarily as the best player, but as the player that knows the best way of playing the game.  Jeremy Lin isn’t pouring out this much effort in his game because he wants personal glory.  No, he is pouring out his best because he wants to glorify God.  “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” is a cliché in a Christian.  And Lin is living it out.  He is seeking his joy in God – a joy that is eternal and complete.

Now, God is blessing Lin for putting Him first in his life.

A Christian, because his life is dedicated to God, then even his life activities are dedicated to God – there are no longer activities that are trivial or without eternal significance.  Again, as what Piper has worded perfectly, “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”  Yes, even in the hardcourt, God’s excellence should be displayed.

If indeed God will be glorified most through this, then surely, Lin’s legend would continue to rise.  I pray that Lin would continue to play basketball for God’s glory and that he wouldn’t lose his focus on why or for Whom he’s playing.  I pray he will be able to fight off the temptations that go with such lifestyle of being on top.   I pray he’ll be a greater role model and testimony than David Robinson (who was a prominent Christian NBA player) and enjoy greater honors than what David had in his career.  I pray he’ll even be a bigger star than LeBron or my favorite Kobe.  All for the glory of God.                     

(Also, I pray he'll become a Laker next season... please, Lord? ^__^)

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