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Jeremy Lin's 60 Minutes Interview Points out Racial Discrimination in Basketball

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 26:  Jeremy Lin #7 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a play on the court during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Toyota Center on January 26, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2013

Jeremy Lin had to overcome a lot of struggles early in his career so those who follow him will not have to.

The point guard was a star of his high school team in California. He was an excellent all-around player who led Palo Alto High School to a state championship and was named first-team All-State. 

However, he did not receive any interest from the high-major schools, the mid-major schools or even the small schools. In fact, Harvard was the only program that even wanted him on the team.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Lin told Charlie Rose exactly why he was overlooked (via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN):

Well, I think the obvious thing in my mind is that I was Asian American, which, you know, is a whole different issue but ... I think that was a barrier. I mean ... it's a stereotype.

When looking at the facts, it is hard to argue against him.

We have a player who was dominating a tough league and sending film of himself to teams across the country (via Mark Viera of the New York Times), but coaches were not giving him a chance.

However, you can blame more than just the college coaches. Respected recruiting websites like Rivals.com did not even have a rating for the point guard.

You cannot expect a Pac-12 school such as Stanford or Cal to offer a scholarship to a player rated zero stars, but someone should have given him an extra look.

Unfortunately, the fact that he is Asian-American hurt his chances. Considering he does not have great height like Yao Ming, teams had to judge his pure basketball ability, and they were not going to do that. 

Former NBA player Rex Walters discussed why Lin was overlooked to Rick Reilly of ESPN:

It's the Asian thing. People who don't think stereotypes exist are crazy. If he's white, he's either a good shooter or heady. If he's Asian, he's good at math. We're not taking him.

He's one of those kids who makes the right play time after time after time. But it takes time to see that. It takes patience to see that. That's not how recruiting works. If the [recruiting] services don't have him in the top 100, the majors won't recruit him.

Obviously, Lin proved his worth at Harvard, although he was once again slighted in the NBA draft. 

It took a couple of years of bouncing around in the league before eventually finding a home with the Houston Rockets. He is now playing extremely well, averaging 13.2 points and 6.1 assists for a team on its way to the postseason.

He is proving to everyone that doubted him that they made a mistake by passing on him.

While this is not an uncommon story, the race factor makes a huge difference in the way that players are viewed. 

Fortunately, there is some good that can come from this. Coaches and scouts that refused to give Asian-Americans an extended look based on prejudice will be forced to put some extra effort in scouting.

No one wants to miss the opportunity to get a talented player that everyone else overlooked.

One possible example is high school junior Chris Tang, who plays at Oak Hill Academy, one of the most storied high school programs in the country. This year, it has two of the top 50 recruits on 247 Sports' composite rankings (plus the vastly underrated Nate Britt).

Tang himself is unrated, but he has a very impressive highlight reel, and Grantland's Jay Caspian King focused on his potential (and pressure) in a feature article.

While the style of play is not much like Lin's, his path to stardom could end up being similar. It will take hard work but hopefully, less racism than the current NBA player faced.

It is impossible to argue that prejudice is a thing of the past in this country. People of every race in almost every occupation deal with it on a regular basis. 

Hopefully, Jeremy Lin's impressive play at the sport's highest level will at least reduce the amount of discrimination for the future.

 

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