On Tuesday, Jeremy Lin’s pregame warm-up playlist will be released, at least a sizeable portion of it.
His favorite rapper, Lecrae, will drop his seventh studio album titled Anomaly.
Lecrae, 6’4”, can dunk. Lin, 6’3”, can too.
But this isn’t why Lin, an outspoken Christian, identifies with Lecrae’s music. It’s because of their shared faith. Lecrae won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album in 2013.
When Lin was still in school, his older brother Josh introduced him to Lecrae through the song “Prayin’ For You.” Years later, Jeremy needed inspiration as he fought for his NBA life as an undrafted rookie in 2010. His success of signing with the Golden State Warriors was followed by starting the season on the inactive list and being sent to the D-League three times.
“This was one of the low points in my life,” said Lin, “if not the lowest point.”
That fall, Lecrae released his fourth studio album, Rehab, and it contained the inspiration that Lin needed: the song “Background.”
“I was struggling so much in the trenches,” said Lin. “And then I heard the song,” which is about, as Lin applied it, “Letting God take the lead, surrendering my life to him and letting him work through me.”
"Background" became his theme song.
“That’s incredible. That’s exactly what I need to hear,” said Lin. “I kept listening to that song. I got sent to the D-League. I was getting benched—all these different things, all these tough scenarios. That song reminded me God has my back. God has the lead. I’m his servant. I’m his steward. I will go where he calls me to go, and I will do what he calls me to do. That was really, really impactful for me.”
Lin scored just 2.6 points per game in 29 appearances for the Warriors that year. The following season, they waived him on the first day of training camp. The Houston Rockets claimed him off waivers three days later, but they only kept him for 12 days before waiving him again.
“Background” kept Lin’s trial in perspective. Two months and another D-League stint later, Linsanity happened, which he credited to God. And this isn’t even the greatest impact that Lecrae has had on him.
One Houston evening, Lin entered the Toyota Center to watch Lecrae perform. Lin came early to connect with Lecrae before the concert, and the point guard brought his friend Noah with him to the green room. Noah had just started learning about Christianity and had questions.
Lin greeted Lecrae, introduced Noah and turned around to meet a couple of employees of Reach Records, Lecrae’s label. What Lin saw when he turned back around left him even more impressed than the concert.
“The next thing I know, Noah is sharing his life story, and Lecrae is just sharing everything,” said Lin, “explaining everything, breaking down the gospel.”
Lin stood in awe at the humility and transparency of Lecrae, an entertainer with over three million social media followers, delaying his concert to share his heart with someone whom he never knew existed minutes prior.
“What?!” said Lin. “This guy is about to perform in front of like 10 … 20,000 people, and he’s telling the person who keeps rushing him, ‘Hold on, give me a sec,’ because he’s talking to one of my friends that he has no idea about, just met and will never see again probably. When I saw that, I was like, ‘OK, this is ridiculous.’”
If Lecrae’s music didn’t give Lin enough motivation to participate in the hip-hop artist’s social media campaign this summer about Anomaly, that did. #Anomaly trended worldwide on Twitter after Lecrae tweeted a picture of what he wrote in a notebook about why he’s an anomaly, and his fans followed.
Not only does Lin identify with Lecrae’s music became of their shared faith, but he’s also the definition of an anomaly—a deviation from the norm. Lin was the first Ivy League player in the NBA since 2003, the first Harvard athlete since 1954 and the first American-born NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.
Everyone is an anomaly in a certain way, Lecrae said. He raps about marriage, self-worth and self-doubt in a genre stereotyped by misogynistic, violent and vain subject matter. This deviation has garnered support and opened doors.
Lecrae has guest spoken to an NFL team on cut day and encouraged teary-eyed players that their identity doesn’t lie in whether or not they make the roster. He’s mentored individual athletes, including Dwight Howard when he hit free agency in 2013 (Lecrae denied that he persuaded Howard to go to Houston, the artist’s hometown). Josh Hamilton, Stephen Curry and Justin Tuck also participated in the #Anomaly campaign.
Professional athletes relate to “fighting to be themselves and walk in their convictions in an environment that is constantly pushing up against that,” Lecrae said.
Lin agreed, who Lecrae believes is a deviation from the norm for more reasons than his education and ethnicity.
This July, as the Rockets attempted to win Carmelo Anthony’s heart in free agency, they Photoshopped Anthony in a No. 7 Rockets jersey on the Toyota Center billboard. While Anthony is number No. 7, so was Lin, who remained on the roster.
This is how Lin responded to what ESPN called a “dis.”
“Obviously there are very few people who would’ve taken that approach,” said Lecrae. “It’s not a pious, ‘I’m better than you, so I’m going to quote scripture.’ It’s saying, ‘Of course this affects me, but this is the response that I need to have.’ … I think that flies in the face of a lot of his peers. That’s anomaly stuff right there.”
The new Los Angeles Lakers guard said, as someone who isn't a franchise or max contract player, he won't be able to orchestrate for Lecrae's music to sound throughout the Staples Center during warm-ups this season.
"But maybe somewhere down the road," Lin said.
*All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.