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5 questions for NBA star Jeremy Lin

CNN
Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 8:35am

It was only a year and a half ago that a phenomenon swept the globe and made basketball fans a little, well, "Linsane."

Remember that? Back then, Jeremy Lin led a historic New York Knicks winning streak, dubbed "Linsanity." Crowds fell for the feel-good story of an overlooked bench-warmer who slept on friends' sofas to take a shot in the NBA.

A new documentary takes a look at the life of Jeremy Lin before the madness. "Linsanity," out in select theaters October 4, offers a glimpse of Lin's road to stardom: He was a standout basketball player in summer leagues, competed in a tightly contested high school state championship and faced racial epithets as an Ivy League athlete before landing, undrafted, in the professional league.

From the documentary, it's clear the 25-year-old Lin was used to being an underdog, and overcame his share of challenges with a deep faith and persistent spirit.

"I'm always trying to have a good time, joking around, goofy," he said. "I think I try not to take anything really too seriously."

In this edited conversation, CNN spoke to Lin, now with the Houston Rockets, about how his faith sustains him, what he learned from his months in the brightest spotlight and how he responds to racism.

CNN: What did you learn from Linsanity?

Lin: I learned a lot of things. I learned ... about how fame and success, worldly success, are great, but they are empty in a lot of different ways, and I think I learned that emptiness through Linsanity.

I also learned you know, how fun it can be and I remember how fun it was to play basketball and to play at that level and to play with my teammates. That was definitely a lifelong memory as well.

CNN: When some think of professional sports, there's obviously the hard work and teamwork, but it also has a reputation for hype and kind of bragging rights. It's a contrast to the characteristics of humility taught in Christianity. How do you balance the two roles as a competitive player, and a faithful Christian?

Lin: I think there's definitely a delicate balance that you need to be aware of, but I think at the end of the day, you can be confident in your own abilities and you can understand this is what I'm good at, this is what has gotten me here.

But at the same time you can also understand that it's a team game and that no one man is above another person and there's still a way you need to treat your coaches and teammates, your opponents, the fans, the refs: being able to have a humble demeanor and be able to treat everyone with respect.

I think there are certain players who, when they become really good, they look down on other people. And there are certain players, when they are really good, they bring and elevate the level of their teammates and their entire team and they bring everybody up with them.

CNN: Speaking of building a life God has called you to live, what were some of your go-to scriptures, stories or prayers that helped you through difficult moments?

Lin: Through difficult moments I'd say Romans 5:3-5 and Romans 8:28 talk about just being able to deal with really tough situations in life and being able to have peace beyond circumstances. And I think in terms of just playing basketball in my career, I think the story of Peter walking on water really jumps out to me -- how, when his eyes were focused on Jesus, he was able to walk on water, but the minute the waves came and the wind came and he got distracted, he lost his footing. That kind of represents the distractions of the world, and I think the good part of the story is Jesus reaches down and picks him up, and I think that's very indicative of our relationship, and our life on earth.

CNN: You've spoke about the racism you faced as a top basketball player being overlooked kind of at every instance of your career. How do you respond to it now, versus when you were younger?

Lin: When I was younger, I let it affect me, I let it boil inside of me. And now I just kind of just brush it off. I'm used to it, you know, and when someone's not racist or when I don't have to deal with racism, it's actually a pleasant surprise, I'm like, "Oh, wow, that's really cool." So, it's just something that I've learned to embrace -- like this is just the world that we live in, and it's OK. I think everybody has their preconceptions and that's OK.

And I think that just as long as we're constantly evolving in terms of our understanding and our perspective, as long as we do that, I think we're on the right path.

CNN: What did you think you would do if you didn't play professional basketball? Do you ever think about life after the NBA and what that looks like?

Lin: Afterward, I probably want to do some type of Christian ministry, or do some type of nonprofit work. That's probably what I'd be doing if I wasn't playing basketball right now.

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