(Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar)
Overnight sensation Jeremy Lin is on fire on the basketball court – seven consecutive wins and six straight games with at least 20 points – but who is helping Lin to keep the fire burning in his spiritual life?
Lin's family attends Redeemer Bible Fellowship, the English ministry of Chinese Church in Christ Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley. His pastor, Stephen Chen, spoke this week to KQED radio station of northern California.
"He (Lin) attempts to play for his God, and to honor Him and glorify Him," explained Chen, who had spoken to Lin just before his breathtaking 38-point game last Friday against the LA Lakers.
Chen first met Lin when he was in eighth grade, and at that time, the middle schooler was about 5'2'' or 5'4'', recalled the pastor. But the boy had told Chen that one day he will grow to over six feet and play basketball.
"And so I asked him how are you going to do it, and he said 'I'm going to drink milk every day, and I'm going to eat calcium pills every day, and it's going to happen,'" Chen shared to KQED. "And sure enough, he's over six feet tall and he's playing in the NBA."
The 6'3'' point guard for the New York Knicks, the first Chinese- or Taiwanese-American player in NBA history, has made it his signature characteristic to thank God and give credit to his teammates whenever receiving accolades for his basketball skills. His humble response to praises and his generosity on the court (sports commentators have repeatedly noted how Lin shares the ball with his teammates), have even inspired Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou, to crack a joke this week that he wished his cabinet would also demonstrate Lin's team spirit.
Lin's parents are devout Christians, and his maternal grandfather was a Taiwanese Christian pastor, according to The New York Times. His Twitter avatar is a picture of Jesus talking to a young man who may have ran away from home or is homeless (there is a large duffel bag and sleeping bag besides him), with the message, "No, I'm not talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me – Jesus."
Lin's outspokenness about his Christian faith and his astounding skills have caused people to compare him to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. But unlike Tebow, who was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and a first-round NFL draft pick, Lin struggled to get noticed in his basketball career.
He attended Harvard University, but not on a basketball scholarship, studying economics, instead. He went undrafted after college, and was offered a two-year deal with his hometown Golden state Warriors. Lin was assigned to the Warriors' D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. After about a year, the Warriors released him. He went on to the Houston Rockets, who also released him after less than a month.
The New York Knicks claimed Lin in late December as a substitute and he did not have a guaranteed contract until just before winning his fifth straight game. It is during this unstable time that he is famously known for sleeping on his brother's couch, not having a place of his own. He had his breakthrough game on Feb. 4, when the injury of other players caused Coach Mike D'Antoni to put Lin in the game. During Lin's fifth game with the Knicks, he solidified his position as a winner and dispelled doubts that his previous wins were just flukes by outscoring the LA Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who had 34 points compared to Lin's 38. The Knicks had a narrow victory over the Lakers, 92-85.
After the Knicks' win over the Lakers, Lin tweeted, "Gutsy win … 5 in a row! This team is so unselfish and has so much heart. Love playing with them! God is good!"
Lin's pastor, Stephen Chen, noted in the radio interview that "obviously, he's (Lin) overwhelmed by a lot of people demanding his time, pulling him in a lot of different directions. He understands that at any moment he can go from hero to zero."
The skyrocketing international basketball star told reporters after the game against the Sacramento Kings this week that he didn't want his stardom to cause him to develop an ego.
"I don't want to let anything affect me or this team," Lin said. "We need to stick together, put our egos aside."
Lin has said that after he is done with professional basketball, he would like to become a pastor and be involved in charity work.
The New York Knicks' next game is Friday, Feb. 17 against the New Orleans Hornets.