Last week, Spike Lee donned Jeremy Lin's Palo Alto High School and Harvard jerseys during two consecutive Knicks games. These jerseys certainly serve as symbols of the roots of the journey that has brought Lin from benchwarmer to Linsanity mega-stardom. But there is another jersey that serves as the greatest symbol of just how remarkable Lin's journey has been -- his game jersey from one game played with the Erie BayHawks of the National Basketball Association Development League (NBA D-League) just weeks before he became a global phenom.
Lin was sent to the D-League along with teammate Jerome Jordan in mid-January. They were the first Knicks players ever assigned down to the D-League in the 10-year history of the League. Will Leitch wrote a great piece for New York Magazine in which he references a fascinating post by Adam Zagoria that highlights Lin's performance in his D-League game. Played in Portland, Maine -- perhaps as far removed from the bright lights of New York Knicks professional basketball as one can be -- Lin logged a triple-double during the contest.
Lin's story is inspiring and incredible for many reasons. The fact that he was overlooked by so many teams and has turned out to be such a strong basketball player is remarkable. It's one thing for him to never have been drafted. Very few players from Harvard are taken seriously enough to become NBA draft picks. Fodder for an entirely separate post, but there is certainly an element of this story that stereotyping likely played a role in scouts underestimating the immense talent of Lin due to the fact he is Asian American. And it's another thing for him to have been cut by two NBA teams during previous seasons. Some may say he was not the same caliber of player a year ago.
But for Lin to be sent to the D-League literally two weeks before becoming one of the biggest phenoms in the NBA is incredible. He could not have improved that much during the course of those weeks that he suddenly became a different caliber of talent. In my opinion, Lin's Erie BayHawks game on January 20, 2012 is the greatest symbol of his story and speaks to the underlying essence of his character and to his enduring confidence in his abilities.
Before Jeremy Lin's ascendancy, I did not know much about the D-League. I was so fascinated by the Erie BayHawks role in the Linsanity story I decided to reach out to the BayHawks directly to learn more from their perspective. I spoke with their team president, Matt Bresee and their coach, Jay Larranaga.
The D-League is the NBA's official minor league basketball organization. Bresee explained that the D-League is comprised of 16 teams. Every team has an affiliation with at least one NBA team. Because there are more NBA teams than D-League teams, several D-League teams are affiliated with two or three NBA teams. Players sign with the D-League as opposed to being signed by individual teams, so the players can be brought up to any NBA team.
Prior to this year, Erie was affiliated with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors. Therefore, whenever those teams had someone they wished to send to the D-League, the players were always sent to the BayHawks. In June 2011, the Knicks and Erie BayHawks announced they would become single-affiliated.
Bresee explained further that Erie is owned by a small private ownership group and the Knicks have no ownership stake in the franchise. However, as a single-affiliated team, the Knicks control everything about the BayHawks regarding basketball and player operations. Allan Houston, who is currently Assistant General Manager of the New York Knicks, controls the basketball operations for the BayHawks. As a result, the BayHawks run Mike D'Antoni's offense. By sending Lin down to the D-League, this provided him with his first opportunity to run D'Antoni's offense in a real game situation.
Coach Jay Larranaga explained:
This is really the first year the Knicks have utilized the D-League. A big motivation for the Knicks to send Jeremy and Jerome to Erie was to give them a little more experience running both the offensive and defensive systems. I knew Jeremy had some strong potential and that he played very well in the D-League last year. But, of course, no one could've predicted how the last month has played out.
Jeremy demonstrated what a quality person he is and his tremendous character when he arrived in Erie. He viewed the D-League as an opportunity to get quality game action and to run the offense. He very well could have viewed it as a set-back but he never did. He made the most of the opportunity.
I hope any player in the D-League learns from Jeremy's experience. Continue to work hard and to be a great team player and great things will happen for you. The D-League is not the glamorous life of the NBA. More than anything it's guys working hard to reach a dream. Jeremy's positive attitude, character, and high energy level and enthusiasm for the game made a huge impact on our team.
There is no better symbol of Lin's heroic rise to stardom than his Erie BayHawks jersey. To essentially be told he was not ready for primetime just two weeks prior to becoming a global sensation is amazing. Lin's BayHawks jersey serves as a reminder for everyone that your big moment may be right around the corner so never give up and keep pushing towards your dreams.
The BayHawks have begun selling replica jersey. Go get yours!
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