"Some people had asked me before the game who I'd be cheering for -- Jeremy or the Lakers," said Chan, pastor of student ministries at Redeemer Bible Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif. "I've never cheered against the Lakers. But Jeremy is a member of our church and a friend, part of our flock --- I had to root for him. It was hard, but...."
Lin has gone from unemployed NBA wannabe to household name and worldwide superstar in only a matter of days. His unexpected emergence as the starting point guard for the Knicks has sparked the struggling team and launched the "Linsanity" that has gripped both the city of New York and the broader sports world.
Lin's is a story of perseverance and persistence, of hard work and humility. But most of all, Lin's is a story of strong faith in Jesus Christ, of devotion to Bible study and prayer and of commitment to spreading the Gospel whenever he gets the opportunity.
"I'm just thankful to God for everything," Lin said in a recent post-game interview, as quoted by Religion News Service. "Like the Bible says, 'God works in all things for the good of those who love Him.'"
How good has Lin been since cracking the Knicks' lineup? New York was 8-15 before Lin scored 25 points off the bench Feb. 4. His next six games as a starter were all wins. He set an NBA record for the most points scored in the first five starts of a career.
In that game against the Lakers, Lin scored 38. On Feb. 14 against Toronto, Lin drained a three-pointer with less than a second remaining to give New York a 90-87 win. After struggling against New Orleans in an 89-85 loss on Feb. 17, Lin bounced back to score a team-high 28 points in a Feb. 19 win over Dallas.
The son of Christian Taiwanese immigrants who settled in California, Lin led his high school team to a state championship before playing college basketball for Harvard and helping the Crimson to their best record ever (21-7) in 2009-10.
Lin, who became a Christian as a freshman in high school, matured greatly in his faith during his time at the Ivy League school. He was an active member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, one of eight InterVarsity chapters at Harvard. Lin met regularly with Adrian Tam, an InterVarsity campus staff member at the time. The two studied the Bible together and read books together, such as "Too Busy Not to Pray."
"First and foremost, he is a disciple of Christ," Tam said about Lin. "That becomes very evident from the beginning. When you meet him you don't think, 'Oh wow, this must be an important person.' He's very humble. In some ways, you might even think he downplays a lot of these things -- his intellect, his ability and all that."
Tam said Lin's goal and quiet ambition was to be "not only the best basketball player he could be, but also to be the best Christ-follower he could be."
Lin didn't get picked in the 2010 NBA draft but signed with his hometown Golden State Warriors in July of that year. He saw little playing time with the team in his first season, however, and the Warriors waived him in December before the 2011-12 NBA season.
The Rockets claimed Lin off waivers, but then waived him again a couple weeks later. On Dec. 27, the Knicks claimed him to be a backup. Lin soon changed those plans and has become the NBA season's biggest news. According to a USA Today story Feb. 17, Lin had the top-selling jersey at NBAstore.com from Feb. 4-12, with merchandise being shipped to 22 countries.
In the midst of his sudden fame, Lin's pastor said his desire is to use it to glorify the Lord.
"He wants to be careful with it," said Stephen Chen, pastor of Redeemer Bible Fellowship. "I think he wants to be able to enjoy what he can enjoy in the things that would honor God, and at the same time be cautious about how he lives his life. He wants to be the same person."
In a 2010 interview with Patheos.com, Lin explained how his faith in Christ affects who he is and what he does on the basketball court.
"Not just in basketball, but I think in life, when you're called to be a Christian, you're automatically called to be different from everyone else. In today's world of basketball, it makes you really different, because the things that society values aren't necessarily in line with what God values.
"Much of it comes down to humility," Lin said. "We as Christians are called to be humble. And if we really understand the Gospel, we will be humble. We should be humble, and understand that everything that is good comes from God."
Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports (www.BPSports.net) and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net