You will not be surprised that I’m writing about NBA basketball in this week’s Messenger. The surprise will be that I won’t be discussing dumb Donald Sterling or his almost-as-dumb girlfriend.
After the Houston Rockets second upset loss to the Portland Trailblazers on April 23, point guard Jeremy Lin responded to a reporter’s question by saying, “God had a plan.” In my easy chair in front of the TV, I found myself thinking, “God doesn’t care who won that game!”
I didn’t think of it at the time, but for Jeremy Lin that was not just a casual comment. I went on line afterward to refresh my memory about his history. Lin is an evangelical Christian who is unashamed and outspoken about his faith. “God had a plan” is the way he sees his life, not just in the big moments, but also in small everyday events, situations and relationships.
After a high school sports career in Palo Alto CA, that culminated in his leading his basketball team to a dramatic Division II championship victory over legendary powerhouse Mater Dei from Orange County, Lin was not recruited by the major sports universities – the victim of a sort of prejudice against Asian-Americans as serious basketball prospects. Instead, he found his way to Harvard, where he excelled for four years on the basketball team, setting a number of Ivy League records. Oh, and by the way, he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, with a 3.1 grade point average. And he also was one of the strongest leaders of the university’s Asian American Christian Fellowship.
He was not chosen in the 2010 NBA draft, but through perseverance and hard work, he found his way into the Golden State Warriors organization. During that season with the Warriors and the next with the New York Knicks, Jeremy was up and down between the D-League and the NBA team, where he saw very little playing time. His faith carried him through these hard times: “I’ve surrendered that to God. I’m not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore.”
Finally, Jeremy Lin’s moment arrived. In February 2012, the Knicks were really floundering with an unexpected losing record. Injuries to their point guards made it necessary for Coach Mike D’Antoni to depend on the unproven backup. Lin came through in a dramatic way, leading the team to seven straight victories, which turned around their season. The most memorable game in this stretch was against the Los Angeles Lakers, in which he outscored Kobe Bryant 38 to 34. Unfortunately, Lin’s dream season was ended by an injury which sidelined him.
Jeremy Lin was so hot during that stretch of games that his frenetic way of playing was described as “Linsanity,” a term reportedly coined by the Lakers’ Metta World Peace. Christian film maker Evan Jackson Leong made a documentary about Lin’s meteoric rise in basketball legend, adopting the term for his title, “Linsanity” (January 2013). In his opening credits, the “t” in the title is enlarged as a way of emphasizing the place the cross of Christ has in his life. Lin puts it this way: “I know God orchestrated this whole thing. Nothing in my life will happen that’s not according to his plan.”
Since then, Jeremy Lin has suffered some reverses. The Knicks didn’t pick up his contract at the end of the 2012 season (Sic transit gloria -Look it up). The Houston Rockets gave him a chance, but he didn’t adjust well to their system; then James Hardin was picked up by the Rockets, and Lin has faded into the shadows again. Maybe, now that the Rockets are down 3 to 1 in the playoff series, it’s time for another miracle episode of Linsanity!
Meanwhile, Jeremy is still being carried through the ups and downs by his rock-solid faith. I admire that. But I still question what he said after their Game 2 loss; “God had a plan.”
I watched another awesome installment of “Cosmos” Sunday evening, in which the ancient study of the stars was reexamined in the light of the modern discoveries of astrophysics. Each of the multiplied billions of stars is going through its own awesome journey from birth to death. The God of the universe is overseeing that whole process. I have a hard time believing that he cares who won the April 23 game, just because it mattered a lot to the players and fans of Houston and Portland.
And yet, he sees a sparrow fall (Matthew 19:29).
— Pastor George Van Alstine