Jeremy Lin Is The Most Important Asian American Role Model Ever

"Linsanity" reached a whole new level on Tuesday night when Jeremy Lin made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with less than a second to help the New York Knicks rally and beat the Toronto Raptors 90-87.

In the last week, New York has been overcome with "Linsanity." A Harvard basketball player who graduated in 2010, Jeremy Lin’s success has come suddenly with his record-smashing start for the New York Knicks. On Friday’s game against the Lakers, Lin reached a career-high, scoring 38 points. Yet Lin’s point-scoring streak means more than just a rise for the Knicks. In defying the traditional stereotypes surrounding Asians, Jeremy Lin has the potential to be the most important Asian-American role model ever. He has, as an individual, broken NBA records and smashed the stereotypes about the types of players expected. Yet on a larger level, he is carving a path for future Asian-American’s to grow up in a world where there are no limitations, both within a desired career and, on a larger level, in society.

Jeremy Lin's Game Winning 3-Point Shot


Nobody in NBA history has scored as many points in his first four starts. He is also the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA and only the fourth Asian American in NBA league history. When he graduated from Harvard in 2010, Lin went undrafted, before playing for the Dallas Mavericks summer league squad. From there, he joined the Golden Stat Warriors, averaging 2.6 points per game before being cut in December 2011. Although he signed a contract with the Houston Rockets, he was let go before the late-starting lock-out season began, leaving him free to be picked up by the New York Knicks on December 27, 2011. Yet it wasn’t until February 4th, where he scored 25 points against the New Jersey Nets, that his seemingly unstoppable rise to fame began.

With every assist or slam dunk, Lin breaks down the common cultural stereotypes which continually perpetuate about Asian American’s. Society expects the Asian nerd, quiet and un-athletic, unexpected to succeed in a physical sport like basketball. What is so fascinating and inspiring about Lin is that he is not just breaking the mold of typical NBA basketball players, but is simultaneously conforming to and defying these racial stereotypes. Lin excelled academically, graduating from Harvard in 2010 with a degree in economics, but his career path in the NBA is highly unusual, not just for an Asian-American, but also for someone coming out of the Ivy League (Lin is the first Ivy-Leaguer in the NBA since 2003, and the first Harvard player since 1954). 

More importantly, and perhaps more damaging, Asians are infrequently regarded as leaders. In 2010, only two of the Fortune 500 CEO’s were Asian. These stereotypes desperately need to be overcome, and Lin’s evolution as a role model for Asian Americans is doing just that. Lin is not just a leader on the court, but is also a model of doing good out of success. In a recent interview, he talked about his desire to do charity and non-profit work, and to impact people off the fieleld. Lin’s desire to help and inspire others, using his sporting career as a platform to do good work for others in need while inspiring others to do the same with theirs, is only one of the manifestations of his humble personality, which we have seen shine through as his star has risen.

Lin appeals not just to his own demographic but also across borders. He is someone who stood up to the “no,” persevered against failure, and is shining despite initial anonymity. If his game keeps improving, and his star carry’s on rising, Jeremy Lin will continue upon his trajectory to becoming the America’s most important Asian American role model.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Sophie Fry

Sophie, a native Londoner, is currently an undergraduate at Harvard University studying Government and English. On campus, she does extensive work at the Institute of Politics and the Kennedy School of Government, and has previously worked at companies such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

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