Jeremy Lin says he was surprised, humbled and ultimately grateful after the New York Knicks reached out to propose taking a week on MSG Network to showcase interviews and 2012 games related to the brief but memorable phenomenon that was “Linsanity.”
In an interview with Rachel Nichols for ESPN’s The Jump that aired Friday, Lin said the discussions about this week’s programming were especially meaningful, given the circumstances New York City has faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When I first got the call from my agent like, ‘Hey, they want to do this,’ I was floored,” Lin said. “Because with COVID, right now, New York is going through one of the toughest times that it has seen in decades. It is a very, very tragic time. And the Knicks were like, ‘Hey, we need to do something to uplift everybody.’
“They have a whole history of footage and games that they can air, and they chose my games.”
Lin spoke to The Jump from China, where he continues to wait for the Chinese Basketball Association to resume its season.
“There’s no sporting events or concerts, but life is definitely very much closer to normal,” said Lin, who plays for the Beijing Ducks and was the league’s leading vote-getter for its All-Star Game, in which he dropped 41 points. “And so we’re working out every day, we get to play and train with the team every single day. It’s like a very, very, very long training camp. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day.’ But we’re figuring it out, and we’re just waiting to see what happens next and if we’re going to have a season or not.”
The Knicks dropped to 8-15 with a loss to Boston on Feb. 3, 2012. Lin, a second-year player who was undrafted out of Harvard, recently had been recalled from the D-League. He played 36 minutes and scored 25 points the next night in a victory over the Nets. By the end of the month, the Knicks were 18-18 and Lin had averaged 22.3 points and 9.0 assists over a 13-game run.
Lin used that burst of success as a springboard that summer to sign a lucrative free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets. But his departure didn’t sit well with many around New York, including Knicks owner James Dolan. As such, his subsequent returns with various teams — he has since played for the Rockets, Lakers, Hornets, Nets, Hawks and Raptors — were met with no particular recognition by the Knicks or Madison Square Garden.
So when they called with an idea to devote a week to him on TV, it came as a surprise, he said.
“I was just like, ‘Are you serious? Wow, that is amazing,'” he said. “Even for me, I was like, I’m still recognizing and realizing maybe the impact that that stretch had on people. And so I have so much gratitude to the organization, to the Knicks, to MSG, to Dolan, to everybody for allowing this to happen. Because honestly, I never expected that. … Yeah, I was floored.”
Lin, 31, said much of his newfound basketball success in China can be credited to motivation he gained after realizing he was playing much of last season with the NBA champion Raptors under a cloak of fear caused by injury. He missed 127 games because of knee and hamstring injuries during his two seasons with the Nets.
“There were the physical effects of my two years of injuries while I was in Brooklyn, but I didn’t realize there was so many layers of subconscious or mental effects, in terms of me maybe being scared to do certain things, or maybe not trusting my body fully, or maybe me going through a lot of crushed dreams and not really having that same tenacity or that freedom to dream and dream big,” Lin said.
“And so for me, it’s been rough, but I feel like right now I’ve gotten to a place where I’ve worked through a lot of the physical and mental stuff. … It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel like I can go back to really just fully trusting God in the future versus being afraid or feeling like, ‘Oh, every next turn is going to be a dream that doesn’t come to fruition.'”
Lin also detailed his experiences with a Linsanity rebirth of sorts in China.
“There’s times when I literally can’t get to the hotel elevator on the road,” he said. “There’s times where I have my assigned room and I always do a secret switch that my teammates don’t even know about, so no one knows what room I’m in. But somehow still, there will be fans waiting outside my door sometimes or things like that, where we need to have security just standing outside my door and shooing away people.”
Lin recalled an instance when a fan was waiting on him with a letter and gifts at a restaurant he had chosen only a short while before his arrival.
“I was like, ‘How did you know that I was coming here? I just decided I was going to come here.’ And he had said that he was just waiting around in the mall, I guess, and he knew that maybe I go there sometimes or something,” Lin said. “I still, to this day, I don’t understand how. …
“It’s been wild, but I love it. I love my fans. And this is kind of what I had mentioned, this is the closest thing to Linsanity in New York. It reminds me a lot of that.”