Jeremy Lin has a lot to prove. Yes, he was a global cultural phenomenon last season when Linsanity ran wild, but it was too small of a sample size to expect sustained excellence.
Says Jeremy Lin.
In a GQ feature that hits newsstands next week, Lin not only understands the skepticism about his game, he buys into the thinking.
"People are always saying, 'He's only started twenty-five games, there's so many uncertainties.' And I agree," Lin tells GQ. "I totally agree. I don't know how my next season's going to turn out. The things that I struggled with before last year, I'm going to struggle with next year -- there's that learning process. Just because you have x amount of good games doesn't mean that you have drastically improved as a player. It just means that what you could do is finally being shown. But I have to get better."
Lin averaged 14.6 points and 6.2 assists with the Knicks last season. He joined the Rockets this summer when the Knicks decided against matching Houston's free-agent offer sheet of three years and $25 million.
"I just need to focus on improvement on my end," Lin says. "I totally hear and agree with people who are like, 'He still has to learn. He's not established enough. He hasn't done it long enough.' I agree with them. I mean, obviously I don't always agree with everyone who says, 'He's at most a backup point guard,' things like that. I'm trying to find a balance. I'm not like the next Michael Jordan, but I'm also not what everyone saw me as before I started playing in the NBA, either."
Although Lin's rise from undrafted benchwarmer to international icon was largely a feel-good story, there was notable backlash in the media. Whether malicious or inadvertent -- and there was both -- the coverage triggered a racial debate that centered around the rarity of an Asian American male athlete becoming a pro sports sensation. But Lin shrugged off the insults.
"In my younger days, it would make me really angry. I would just get really pissed," Lin tells GQ. "I think the comments in college were pure racism. Stuff that was said by opposing players, opposing fans, opposing coaches. So none of this was even close to that."
Lin acknowledges his success was all the more surprising to fans and media simply because there are so few Asian American males in pro sports.
"There's a lot of perceptions and stereotypes of Asian-Americans that are out there today, and the fact that I'm Asian-American makes it harder to believe, even crazier, more unexpected," he says. "I'm going to have to play well for a longer period of time for certain people to believe it, because I'm Asian. And that's just the reality of it."