Sam SpiegelmanLinsanity took the Garden by storm. It took New York by storm. It took the NBA by storm. In fact, Linsanity made waves throughout sports, as well as music, TV and pop culture.
It also sparked a bidding war between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, one in which the Rockets won by handing Jeremy Lin — an unknown-turned-fan favorite point guard — a three-year, $25.1 million deal to be a part of the revamped Rockets roster.
But for that amount of dough, Lin’s 2012-13 season in which he averaged 13 points and 6 assists, did not live up to the expectations.
In a speech delivered during a youth conference in Taiwan, Lin discussed how his Rockets coaches were “losing faith” in his abilities and that he became “obsessed with trying to be Linsanity.”
Here are some quotes from a YouTube clip.
“As the 2012-13 season started, I was supposed to be the cornerstone of the Houston Rockets. I was supposed to be their new leader, the main guy to finally lead the Rockets back to the NBA playoffs. I was expecting to come in and pick up right where I left off [in New York]. I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston. All across Houston, you could see my face on the billboards. I thought I looked so cool. I was supposed to save Houston basketball, but most importantly I was ready to be Linsanity. As I’ve seen many times in my life, what actually happened was nothing like what I had planned.
“I started the season playing terribly. Less than 10 games into the season, I started getting benched. In many games, our back-up point guards were playing more minutes than I was. At this point in the season, my stats were significantly worse. The coaches were losing faith in me, the basketball fans were making fun of me. Journalists were criticizing me. My Twitter feed was filled with all types of hateful words. I heard, ‘overrated, overpaid, a flash in the pan, a bust, a nobody.’ As a result I became really, really frustrated.
“On Dec. 15, 2012, I wrote in my diary: ‘I’m tired and weary and can’t wait for the season to end.’ I went on to write, ‘I haven’t been able to eat or sleep recently. I’m just tossing and turning with anxiety. What if I lose my spot as a starter? What if I have to be the back-up the rest of the season? What happens if my back-ups are actually better than me?’
“I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player. I was so obsessed with living up to my contract and I became so obsessed with trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA and the world by storm. Linsanity was supposed to be my breakthrough, where I went from being stuck on the bench to experiencing new freedom as an up-and-coming star. Houston was supposed to be a fresh start, a new beginning, a new journey.
“Most of all, I was supposed to be joyful and free but what I experienced was the opposite. I had no joy and I felt no freedom. I felt chained to the world’s lofty expectations. I felt like I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. That’s why I couldn’t eat or sleep. That’s why I was no fun to be around. I never smiled. In fact, I even cried before a game against the New Orleans Hornets because I was so anxious about losing my starting spot.
“I had to self-reflect. I had to ask: Would I allow myself to listen to what everyone else said about me? Would I allow myself to be consumed by my performance on the court? To be consumed by my job? I based my self-worth on how many points I scored or how many games I started. I based my self-esteem on being the player everybody else expected me to be. My identity should never have been based on basketball. This is when God showed me I needed an identity check.”
It’s a reality check for everyone, to say the least, as Lin is a professional athlete but we forget he is still a 24-year-old man. A huge payday and tons of media attention often results in unfair pressure placed on athletes, and when they can’t live up to those standards, unruly fans and tough media critics dig in and take their shots.
Shocking doesn’t begin to describe how it feels to read about Lin’s identity crisis. Thankfully, it didn’t get worse than crying and transpire into something more serious.
This is certainly a wake-up call for fans and media members alike, who must also remember these athletes are men and women with feelings. And Lin is not a LeBron James or a Carmelo Anthony, who have been the center of attention since they were in high school; this is a young player who went undrafted and embarked on an impressive spree of basketball. And while he relished with the spotlight on him, all he did was accept a contract and hope to be a part of a competitive team.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs