Culture At Large

Jeremy Lin and ‘godly basketball’

Daniel Burke

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin's underdog story and outspoken faith have some sportswriters dubbing him the "Taiwanese Tebow." But while Lin and Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow share similar Christian convictions, Lin's rise to stardom is even more miraculous.

Just a few weeks ago, the Harvard University graduate was buried on the bench and crashing on friends' couches. Stadium security guards mistook Lin for a team trainer. After injuries to teammates, though, Lin was inserted into the starting lineup. The Knicks have promptly won six straight games - the latest of which ended on a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot by their new point guard - sending New Yorkers and Asian-Americans across the country into a frenzy of "Linsanity.”

Like any good point guard, Lin knows the art of the pass - distributing the praise to his teammates and to God.

"I'm just thankful to God for everything," Lin said in a recent post-game interview. "Like the Bible says, 'God works in all things for the good of those who love him.'"

Lin's passing reference to Romans 8:28 was caught by his longtime pastor, Stephen Chen of Redeemer Bible Fellowship, a ministry within the Chinese Church in Christ in Mountain View, Calif. Chen describes the church as full of first- and second-generation immigrants, like Lin and his parents, who are "conservative in nature" and evangelical in faith.

"Very early in his life he decided to pay heed to the call of Christ to take up the cross daily and follow after Him," Chen said.

Lin credits his parents with teaching him to play "godly basketball," which measures success by sportsmanship, not stats. That means putting teammates first and showing respect to opponents and referees.

As his star rose, first at Harvard and then with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, Lin shared his faith testimony with youth groups and churches near his California home. In a 2011 appearance at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, he quoted from the works of John Piper, a prominent neo-Calvinist pastor in Minneapolis, and spoke of trusting in "God's sovereign plan."

Just a few weeks ago, the Harvard University graduate was buried on the bench and crashing on friends' couches. Stadium security guards mistook Lin for a team trainer.

Lin already uses his social media platforms to spread the Word. His Twitter account's description is, "to know Him is to want to know Him more." His account's avatar depicts Jesus telling a young man, "No, I'm not just talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me."

Like Tebow, Lin has spoken of relying on faith to help carry him through the highs and lows of his sports career, and both men often praise God during post-game interviews.

New York Times reporter Michael Luo, however, sees differences between Lin and Tebow.

"I have the sense that (Lin's) is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith," Luo wrote.

Still, as one of the very few Asian-Americans to ever reach the NBA, Lin will have millions following his every move, said Melanie Mar Chow of the Asian-American Christian Fellowship campus ministry.

"We could probably count on one hand the number of Asian-Americans who are prominent Christians," Mar Chow said. "It's great to have a role model like him."

What Do You Think?

  • Is it fair to compare Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow?
  • What do you think of the way Lin publicly presents his faith?
  • Is there such a thing as “godly basketball?”


Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Sports, Theology & The Church, Faith