In 2010, two years before he started sinking game-winning shots for the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin was a talented but otherwise anonymous guard for the Harvard Crimson. And, during his senior season, Lin dominated Seattle University in a game at KeyArena, displaying some of the skills that would eventually skyrocket him to NBA stardom.
"He was definitely the best player on the floor," says Dave "The Groz" Grosby, who called the Harvard-Seattle U game for 710 ESPN. "There was no question he was a good player, but, you know, to suggest you saw anything like this coming would be crazy."
The Groz recalls that it was Microsoft night at the arena when Lin and his Ivy League teammates came to town, and a vocal contingent of Harvard alums were in attendance. But although Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, has become something of a poster child for Asian-Americans in sports, the broadcaster says Lin didn't yet have his own rooting section.
Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar describes Lin as an "excellent player," in a message relayed by a school spokesman, and says "we knew he had the capability to perform as he did." But while Lin was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in college basketball, he was passed over in the NBA draft, and only played sparingly last year during 22-game stint with the Golden State Warriors.
This season, Lin was acquired by the Knicks to be a reserve, but injuries thinned the depth chart, and thrust him into the starting role. Lin has seized the opportunity and then some. He out-dueled Kobe Bryant and the Lakers last Friday, scoring 38 points in front of a frenetic Madison Square Garden crowd. He hit a buzzer beater on Tuesday, and tallied a career high 13 assists en route to the Knicks seventh-straight victory.
Earning the league-minimum on a contract that wasn't guaranteed until recently, he went from sleeping on his brother's couch in Manhattan to the cover of Sports Illustrated in just over a week. Along the way he has spawned a half-dozen Internet memes, most notably the ubiquitous Twitter hashtag #Linsanity.
Former Seattle U star Charles Garcia, currently struggling for his own crack at an NBA starting lineup, says Lin's meteoric rise to fame shows that overlooked players from lesser-known colleges can compete with the league's elite if given the chance.
"He's just proving whatever school you come out of, it doesn't matter," Garcia says. "Coaches want to tell guys they're not ready for this, or they can't do that...but once you get that opportunity, it's your time to shine, and [Lin] is doing that right now."
Garcia scored 19 points and collected 10 rebounds in Seattle U's game against Harvard, but he mostly remembers getting "smacked" by Lin and the Crimson. But despite Lin's stellar game in Seattle, Garcia says he didn't foresee the Linderella story.
"I thought he was good," Garcia says. "But I didn't know he was going to be this damn good."