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Jeremy Lin and the Most Improbable Success Stories in Sports

Patrick BusconeSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2017

Jeremy Lin and the Most Improbable Success Stories in Sports

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    Jeremy Lin has captivated fans everywhere with his recent phenomenal play and his improbable success story. His rise to NBA stardom was far from easy or predictable. And it is stories like his that make sports so much fun.

    In a sports society where many of the stars seem to be given everything on their way to the top, it is refreshing to see players like Jeremy Lin who need to earn everything on their way to the top. Players like Lin don't come around every day, but when they do, they captivate the fans.

    Not only do players like Jeremy Lin earning their way to the top intrigue fans, but also the players can give hope for younger players. Not every kid with Asian descent playing basketball could find hope with the towering Yao Ming, because his height was so unreachable.

    Jeremy Lin, on the other hand, can offer hope to any player with Asian descent told they aren't good enough, because his success is tangible.

    These players with improbable success stories were either regular people like you and me or hit with massive amounts of adversity, or both. Because of their improbable success stories, Lin and players like him inspire others to reach their goals. 

Kurt Warner

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    After receiving no Division I offers, a young Kurt Warner decided on the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, which was Division I-AA.

    He spent most of his collegiate career riding the bench and it was not until his senior year when he started at quarterback. During that season, though, he was named the Offensive Player of the Year in his conference. 

    Kurt would be passed over in the draft though. However, his dream of being an NFL quarterback never died. He would train by day and stock shelves at his local grocery store for $5.50 an hour by night.

    Soon, he found himself in the Arena Football League where he was noticed by the St. Louis Rams, who signed him after he performed well in Europe as well.

    Soon after being signed by the Rams, their starter went down and Kurt was thrust into the starting role, where he flourished. He led the soon-dubbed "Greatest Show On Turf" to the Super Bowl, where he was named MVP in the team's victorious effort after throwing for a Super Bowl-record 414 yards.

    After that Cinderella season, Warner went on to have a great NFL career with three teams and go to two more Super Bowls.

    His rise to the top, though, is what makes him so special. To go from bagging groceries to winning a Super Bowl is pretty incredible and no doubt one of the most improbable success stories in the NFL.

Tom Brady

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    Unfortunately for Kurt Warner, his path crossed with another improbably successful quarterback in Super Bowl XXXVI, and the more recently improbably successful quarterback, Tom Brady, triumphed. 

    Brady wasn't exactly working at a grocery store like Warner, but his road to stardom wasn't easy either. Passed up on for the majority of the draft, Brady was selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft as the 199th pick.

    He became the team's third-string quarterback before quietly playing his way into the backup position. There, he got his opportunity when starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe got rocked by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. 

    Although Tom failed to put up big numbers during this season, he got the job done and led his team on a remarkable run to the Super Bowl. There, he triumphed over Warner and collected Super Bowl MVP honors.

    Since then, Brady has entered the discussion as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and won two more Super Bowls. He will, without a doubt, go down as one of the greatest of all time as the 199th pick in the draft.

Dennis Rodman

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    What if I told you that one of the NBA's greatest defenders and rebounders stood at 5'9" coming out of high school where he hardly played any basketball? You would think I was crazy, but a story like that is too unbelievable to be made up.

    At age 19, Dennis Rodman was working as a janitor at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport where his life was changed forever with one 11-inch growth spurt.

    He grew to 6'8" and was discovered by the coach of Cooke County College, where he later enrolled. There, he racked up big numbers before flunking out and transferring to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where he also put up big numbers.

    At a pre-draft camp, he caught the eye of the Detroit Pistons. From there, he had an illustrious NBA career as part of the "Bad Boy" Pistons and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. He won five NBA championships, was twice the Defensive Player of the Year and led the NBA in rebounds seven times.

    Just recently, he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and today is regarded as one of the most colorful players ever to play the game of basketball. But what people forget is that he started out as a short janitor at an airport.  

John Starks

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    Kurt Warner wasn't the only former grocery bagger to end up having a great career in professional sports. Starks certainly did not have an easy road to the NBA, one that included four colleges, including three junior colleges and, of course, bagging groceries.

    He went undrafted in the 1988 draft but was eventually picked up the Golden State Warriors. After being cut by the Warriors, he jumped around various leagues before trying out for the New York Knicks.

    As the story goes, Starks tried to dunk on Patrick Ewing in one practice, only to get thrown to the ground and twist his knee.

    This injury, however, would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Starks, as an injured player cannot be released. So the Knicks held on to him. 

    Starks would go on to be one of the centerpieces of the Knicks in the '90s. He is perhaps most known for his one dunk over Horace Grant and Michael Jordan, known simply as "The Dunk."

    All in all, he had a great career, one that started by getting thrown to the ground by Patrick Ewing.

Lance Armstrong

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    Everyone knows Lance Armstrong's story. He is the man who beat cancer then won the Tour de France seven straight years.

    Success stories don't get much better than that, especially today when cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

    Lance's story doesn't only provide hope for all of the young bikers in the world, but also for anyone suffering from cancer.

Michael Oher

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    If you have seen The Blind Side you are familiar with Michael Oher's story. He was living on the streets before being adopted by the Tuohy family.

    His success on the football field, coupled with his new found help at home, thrust him into a scholarship from Ole Miss.

    Now, he is a promising young tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and has started all 44 games in his young career. 

Danny Woodhead

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    Throughout his football career, Danny Woodhead was told he was too short. He played Division II college football at Chadron State College in Nebraska after receiving no Division I offers. There, he set school and Division II records. Still, though, that was not enough to earn him a pick in the draft.

    The Jets picked him up, only to drop him soon after. From there, he was signed by the Patriots, and everyone thought that the Pats only signed him to get information about the Jets.

    But when his first rushing attempt was a 22-yard touchdown run (Tom Brady says he didn't know Woodhead's name when he handed him the ball on that play), we knew that he could play.

    Woodhead has become a mainstay in the Patriots' running back-by-committee backfield, and he even caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl. His story should inspire every kid out there that has been told they are too short.

Jeremy Lin

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    As much as Woodhead was judged for his height, Jeremy Lin was judged for his Taiwanese ethnicity. But now, he is the first Taiwanese-American to ever make the NBA. And he has taken the NBA by storm.

    It all started, though, when he enrolled at Harvard as a non-scholarship player after receiving little attention from Division 1 schools.

    He went undrafted and was signed by the Warriors. However, he would soon be cut and have to jump around in the D-League before getting his shot with the New York Knicks.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Now, he is the most talked about player in the NBA, all while sleeping on his brother's couch.

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