NBA standout Jeremy Lin’s failure to get a major college basketball scholarship or a roster spot through the NBA draft probably had to do with his Asian ethnicity, Lin and NBA Commissioner David Stern say.
The opinions come to light in a profile of the Houston Rockets player, whose spectacular performances off the bench for the New York Knicks last spring spurred the catchword “Linsanity.”
Charlie Rose reports Lin’s story on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, April 7, on CBS.
Lin was chosen California’s player of the year when he led his Palo Alto High School team to a state championship. Asked by Rose why he didn’t get a scholarship to nearby UCLA or Stanford, Lin replies, “Well, the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian American which, you know, is a whole different issue but…I think that was a barrier.” Watch an excerpt.
Acknowledging that his ethnicity had nothing to do with his athletic ability, Lin says it was more of a perception of Asian Americans. “I mean…it’s just a stereotype,” he tells Rose. He believes that if he were a black or white player, he would have gotten a scholarship to his dream school, Stanford.
Lin, a brilliant student, went to Harvard instead, where no athletic scholarships are granted, and was a standout in that Division I program. But the six-foot-four-inch guard wasn’t drafted by any of the NBA’s 32 teams in 2011. Was race involved there, too?
“I think in the true sense the answer to that is yes,” says the NBA’s Stern. “In terms of looking at somebody…I don’t know whether he was discriminated against because he was at Harvard.,” he says with a laugh, “Or because he was Asian.”
The bottom line, says Stern, he didn’t have the usual background common to a vast majority of professional players.
Lin was forced to enter the NBA the hard way, through a summer league. That experience led him to a few short stints on pro teams and the NBA’s minor league, until the New York Knicks signed him for its bench.
What happened next led to a familiar word in New York City and then the world, “Linsanity.” Lin substituted for injured stars and played so well, he became a sports phenomenon in the media capital of the world.
Rose also speaks to Lin’s parents in this 60 MINUTES profile.