The Evolution of Jeremy Lin

The phenomenon that is #Linsanity has swept the nation… The saga began after Jeremy Lin had a 25-point Game at Madison Square Garden on February 4. Since then, Jeremy Lin has been averaging more than 20 points and dishing out nearly 9 assists per game for the New York Knicks. In my opinion, he has single-handedly resurrected the shortened NBA season.

But what of Jeremy Lin’s evolution? Cut twice by two NBA teams, this fascinating New York Times story reveals how Jeremy Lin’s evolution as a point guard we observe today was gradual. Over a span of eighteen months, he has shown dedication to get better at his game. It meant coming to the training arena before anyone else and leaving after everyone else has gone home. The Jeremy Lin that is now the starting point guard for the Knicks isn’t the same player as the one who entered NBA after his playing days at Harvard:

It began with lonely 9 a.m. workouts in downtown Oakland in the fall of 2010; with shooting drills last summer on a backyard court in Burlingame, Calif.; and with muscle-building sessions at a Menlo Park fitness center.

It began with a reworked jump shot, a thicker frame, stronger legs, a sharper view of the court — enhancements that came gradually, subtly, through study and practice and hundreds of hours spent with assistant coaches, trainers and shooting instructors over 18 months.

My favorite anecdote from the story is a game called “Beating the Ghost”. This passage shows Lin’s dedication to continue improving:

Doc Scheppler has coached in Bay Area high schools for 34 years. He first saw Lin as a scrawny eighth-grader. But even then, “he had the ability to see the floor, make the right decision, make the correct angle pass. And that is just not done at 13, 14 years old.”

Last summer, Lin sought out Scheppler to help him with his 3-point shot. It was improving, but Lin was still shooting too high and throwing the ball — a “flying weapon,” Scheppler called it.

Working mostly in Scheppler’s backyard in Burlingame, Lin learned to begin his shot on the way up and release it at his peak. They also worked on a variety of in-game situations: the catch-and-shoot, off-the-dribble shots, and hesitation moves to create space.

Lin’s perfectionist tendencies came out in a 3-point-shooting drill called “beat the ghost,” in which Lin earned 1 point for every shot he made at the arc and the “ghost” earned 3 points for every shot Lin missed.

On one occasion, Lin made 17 3-pointers but lost 21-17, then kicked the ball in anger, Scheppler recalled with a chuckle. He refused to stop until he beat the ghost. It took 14 games. When Scheppler tallied up all of the scores for the day, Lin had converted 71 percent of his shots from the arc. “That’s the beauty of Jeremy Lin,” Scheppler said. “It’s not about moral victories. It’s ‘I have to win.’ ”

Of all the stories I’ve read about Jeremy Lin, The New York Times piece is one of (if not) the best explainer of Jeremy Lin’s rising stardom in the NBA. It didn’t happen overnight.