Former Knick Jeremy Lin, who rocketed to stardom in the spring of 2012 with a furious run that became known as Linsanity, bounced around the NBA for several years before landing with the Beijing Ducks of the China league. He takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What’s the new normal like in Beijing?
A: All the malls and restaurants and everything are open, so a lot of stuff is getting back to normal. There’s a lot of traffic everyday, everyone’s back to work. In general though, some of the things that have changed is, I don’t think people are as ready to just be all the way out and about in terms of like you go to restaurants, and you may only see people in groups of 2-4, you don’t see big parties of 6, 8, 10. Big-group gatherings like concerts or sporting events or nightlife, those things aren’t really happening. And then everyone is wearing a mask, 100 percent people are wearing masks. Those are a few ways that things have changed, but in many ways, things are very reminiscent of what things were like before.
Q: How often have you been tested?
A: I got tested before quarantine and after quarantine, and honestly, anywhere you go any time, every restaurant, every mall, everything everywhere, every time I enter my apartment, I get my temperature checked, too. They’re constantly monitoring. You can’t go and eat at a restaurant without leaving all of your information, and there’s this app that shows your body temperature and whether you had symptoms and where you’ve been the last 2-4 weeks. I mean, it tracks basically everything that you’re doing and where you’re going, and you have to show that and update that every time you go anywhere new.
Q: Were you in the States when the Wuhan outbreak happened?
A: When Covid first broke out, we still had games going in the CBA. And then when it got a lot worse in China, I was taking my vacation for Chinese New Year. And then I went back to California, and then that’s when it got really, really bad in China, and then I was in California for two months. And after like six weeks in California, then Covid got really, really bad in the U.S. and really bad in California, and then everything went into lockdown.
Q: How long have you been back in China?
A: I came back on March 18.
Q: What is it like being a Beijing Duck?
A: It’s amazing. Being in Beijing is the closest thing to what Linsanity was like in New York. The fan reception here, all of our road games are home games, and there’s times where I can’t even make it to my hotel on the road, I can’t make it to the hotel elevator ’cause there’s just so many fans, and it’s like a mob. And so there’s just so much love out here, and I’m really blown away. It’s genuinely the closest thing to Linsanity in New York.
Q: Do you think there will be an NBA season, and what would an NBA season be like without fans?
A: I’m not sure if there’ll be an NBA season, although I would say from reading the news recently, it seems a little bit more likely seeing that there’s been progress in some areas. I think without fans, the players will adjust. I think at the end of the day, the players have been in quarantine or lockdown, and a lot of people haven’t been able to touch the court. So honestly, I think playing with no fans, everyone will be grateful for it. And I think basketball will be really meaningful because the entertainment that the world wants, but they don’t have right now, and so even if they’re playing without fans, I think every player would realize like, “This is some of the most meaningful basketball we can play.”
Q: MSG Networks has a full day marathon of “Linsanity” games on Sunday, nine games total, starting at 10 a.m. capping Linsanity Week.
A: My initial reaction was … really? I was just like really shocked, for multiple reasons. The first thing that kind of shocked me was that in all of Knicks history, they chose this portion. And I’m like, “Hey, look, I get it, it was a fun time, but I only played 35 games, and I don’t even have like 1,000 career points for your organization.” But they chose this stretch of time, and I was just blown away. And then secondly, another reason why I was like really? is because I was just kind of like, “Wow, the Knicks are treating me so well that they’re willing to do this. And I haven’t really had much interaction or anything with the organization since everything ended eight, nine years ago, but to be able to be a part of this.” … It’s not just like they aired the game and that’s it. We’re in constant communication, their team and my team every single day, we have a whole game plan, we have stuff that we’re doing, and for me the only thing that I’m seeing is that the Knicks just want to inspire and help and uplift the entire community, the New York community. And to me it’s like so genuine-hearted, and it’s such a privilege to be a part of.
Q: Why do you think you captured so many imaginations in New York, and all over the world, really?
A: I think in New York ’cause it happened there, for sure, and I think the context, the background, everything leading up to it, maybe some of the disappointment that Knicks fans have gone through in terms of maybe seasons in the past where it didn’t turn out the way they had wanted, or even during that stretch — I think we were 2-11 before the breakout game. And so, I think just the context of it added to it. I think the different elements of the story, being undrafted, being cut twice, going to Harvard, being Asian-American, doing it in MSG, which is like the best arena, with the biggest fan base in the NBA … I mean, there were so many elements of it — the perfect storm. It came right after the lockout, too … just so many elements that were so captivating. I don’t say that like, “Look at me,” I say that more like, “I can’t believe all this happened,” like I couldn’t control most everything that happened, and how the storm was built up.
Q: What are your three favorite memories of that time?
A: Man, my three favorite memories … first off, I would have to say … can I give four (laugh)? The first one is the corner baseline shot against the Lakers, and I always describe this moment is when I hit that 3-pointer, it was the loudest I’ve ever heard an arena, and I remember it felt like I was hovering like half a foot off of the arena floor. I will never forget that, I’ve never experienced anything like that on a basketball court. And that was in the fourth quarter, that was a dagger.
And then of course the game-winner against Toronto for obvious reasons. It was a road game that was a home game, that might be my most significant or more remembered single play in forever, for the rest of my career. Another thing that I really remember was the Bible study that we had, we had a Bible study in Toronto on the road, and there were quite a few members, and for me it was just awesome for everyone to … we’re NBA players, and we’re used to a high level of success and things like that, but everyone on that team, and there were so many people at the Bible study. We all kind of came to realize the same thing that like this is supernatural, this is different, this is not your normal situation, this is not your normal NBA season. And I think for us, we had a Bible study and we were just kinda sharing a lot of things where we were like, “Man, this is supernatural. This is a miracle.”
And then lastly, after my knee injury, and I was rehabbing, we had already lost in the playoffs, but I was still rehabbing, and then I remember at that time I was really scared and I felt like was in this little like fishbowl and the spotlight was just far on me, there was paparazzi everywhere, I didn’t know where to go, I couldn’t do anything. But one night me, my older brother and my little brother, we snuck out, and we went to like an outdoor court at like 10 at night or something like that, and we just messed around and played 21 and H-O-R-S-E and all these like smaller games. And at that time, my knee wasn’t like all the way ready but our season was already over, and so I was just kind of playing around with them, and I remember just feeling so alive like, “Oh man, I’m outside, I don’t have to wear a hat or I don’t have to hide or anything ’cause it’s so dark.”
Q: Any regrets about the way it ended with the Knicks?
A: I’d say there no regrets, man. I’m just a personality where it’s 100 percent always, both feet in, and I gave everything I had. I did everything I could, and I’m not the only one, right? Like our whole team did that, and we were far out of the playoffs and we fought all the way back in and we went through all the media scrutiny and everything, and we still got to the playoffs. And we went through so many injuries — Amar’e [Stoudemire] was out for a while, we lost Baron Davis, [Mike] Bibby, Toney Douglas, Shump [Iman Shumpert], me, Melo [Carmelo Anthony], Tyson [Chandler] … everybody was injured that season, and we all like rallied. And so, for me, I know I gave everything, so I don’t really have any regrets.
Q: Whatever comes to mind: Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson.
Q: James Dolan.
A: New York Knicks.
Q: Amar’e Stoudamire.
Q: Mike Breen.
Q: Landry Fields.
Q: Can you mediate the feud between Dolan and Spike Lee?
A: Can I mediate it (laugh)?
Q: Would you mind?
A: Do I have that capability?
Q: Spike Lee.
Q: Your quote: “We have it in us to be the light, because there are already millions choosing to be the light every day.” What is it about you that makes you choose to be the light?
A: For me, it’s my faith. I think it’s real simple, for me I feel like Jesus has sacrificed on the cross, and resurrection has given me unconditional love, and I always feel like I truly have received unconditional love, if I truly received and understand it, then I would have love that can overflow to other people. I just feel like God has given me so much love that I can pass it on to other people and that’s really what it means to be the light. I’m just trying to do my best to promote positivity and to promote love and grace and reconciliation in a time where division is rampant.
Q: Who are some of the people who inspire you, who have been the light amid the darkness?
A: First and foremost, my family. My older brother I’ve always really looked up to and had kind of taught me what it means to be a man. Being a man isn’t benching 225 [pounds], or having a Rolex or the next car or whatever. Being a man is learning how to love people well, how to lead through humility and service. Even my mom is teaching underprivileged children for free, and tutoring them, and she’s been doing that all year long. Even right now she’s still doing that, even as most of the world is shutting down with COVID, she’s still helping and tutoring underprivileged kids who are really, really behind in academics.
Q: And the first responders and the frontliners in this war.
A: Oh, man. If you’re talking about people that I don’t know, yes, for sure. If you read these stories, these firsthand accounts, you read about letters that some of these frontline workers are writing, to policy-makers, or you hear about some of the stories of some of the medical workers who have passed away, or some of the miracles or the lives that they’ve saved … and that’s just through an article, it’s not like we’re there seeing it live. That is absolutely inspiring.
Q: How is your family?
A: My family’s doing great. Everyone’s healthy, so I’m really, really happy about that. How about you?
Serby: Thank God, so far so good.
Q: Do you know people, friends or others, personally affected by the virus?
A: Yeah, but not anything crazy. Everybody that I know has recovered. It is kinda scary, but yeah.
Q: What does Linsanity mean to you now looking back on it?
A: I’m starting to understand more and more the impact that that stretch of time had. And it’s becoming I’m increasingly more grateful for.
Q: What would be your message to Asian-Americans?
A: Stand strong … be united … stand up for yourself … but also, don’t only stand up for Asian-Americans. My message would be to stand up for injustice, period. I’m not knocking or making light of this current situation, because everyone knows I’ve stood out and taken a stand alongside Asian-Americans. But I do think the long game for Asian-Americans and for us is to really be able to be united, have a voice, and then speak up for ourselves, but also to start speaking out for other oppressed groups as well. And I think when we really get there, I think will be a catalyst for a lot of social justice and a lot of change.
Q: Your message to America?
A: My message to America would be to keep fighting, and to remember that we’re all in this together. Division will only make it harder, but if we unify, we have so much potential to do so many good and great things. And so I would say just remember that we’re all in this together … and so I would I say: Be the light.