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How Jeremy Lin Became A Pioneer For NBA G League Athletes

By Keith Schlosser | April 9, 2020

Overnight bus rides from one city to the next. Sleeping in a different hotel every night, often times sharing your unfamiliar room with someone else. Rest is hard to come by as the anxiousness and unease of tomorrow’s future settles in.

Opportunity awaits in the form of the biggest audition of your life, but with the stress of yesterday and the unknown of tomorrow weighing on one’s mind, it could be difficult to perform at your best.

Before he became a national phenomenon, Jeremy Lin experienced all this and more as a member of the Reno Bighorns during the 2010-11 season. Sure, he donned the tan and green uniform alongside future household names like Danny Green and Hassan Whiteside, and other future NBA players like Steve Novak, Bobby Simmons, and Donald Sloan. The future shined brightly for each one in its own right, but for all they knew, all they saw guaranteed was a glimmering light at best.

Not many before them had crashed through the door and broke down barriers quite in the form they needed to secure a comfortable, healthy, happy, and financially sound future…that is, until Lin carved his own pioneering path.

The point guard averaged a respectable 18 points and 4.7 assists with Reno through 20 games that season, but even that was only enough to earn him a short gig with the hometown Golden State Warriors before he landed on the Knicks’ bench. He was planted there rather steadily, playing more than 10 minutes just once through 9 sparse appearances heading into February. With the losses racking up and his fellow floor generals faltering due to injuries, Lin got the chance of a lifetime that would arguably change the career trajectories of NBA G League athletes for years to come.

Tallying 25 points and 7 assists in a win over the Nets on February 4, 2011, it was as though Lin was fired out of a canon and maintained his flight en route to a miraculous display that awed NBA fans all over the globe.  “Linsanity” struck, with the youngster averaging 20.9 points, 8.4 assists, and 2.1 steals for the month. But even those numbers didn’t quite do justice for his accomplishments along the way:

  • Lin’s heroics led the Knicks to a 7-game winning streak that month.
  • He scored a career-high 38 points in a win over the Lakers on February 10, going head-to-head with Kobe Bryant.
  • The guard hit the game-winning shot to cap off a 27-point, 11-assist performance against the Raptors on February 14.
  • He tallied five double-doubles in February
  • Lin’s continued efforts sparked his team’s second trip to the postseason in nine seasons.

Never before had a player been plucked out of obscurity and thrust onto the scene to lead a team. Lin’s story made national headlines and transformed him into a mainstream commodity people wanted to follow day-by-day. His underdog journey gave everyone hope, but perhaps no one more than the NBA G League athletes that continue to follow in his footsteps to this very day. He’s proof that worthy talent is waiting in the wings out in the minor league, even when you least expect it.

Perhaps more important for the futures of NBA G League athletes is what followed that blip of stardom for Lin. He became the poster-boy for carving out an NBA career and maintaining staying power. Lin boasts a nine-year NBA career now, highlighted by a multitude of contracts and recently culminated by an NBA title with the Raptors in 2019. He was one of an all-time high 9 alums on the squad, and the first Asian-American to win an NBA championship.

Needless to say, Lin was a pioneer in many ways, first proving that the NBA G League could be the first step in someone’s humble but soon-to-be fruitful journey.

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