I am not a huge basketball fan. However, growing up, basketball was part of my life.
Why? Because of my dad.
My father has always been basketball-obsessed. It started when he was a boy growing up in Seattle, Washington. He loved the game, and not just watching it. He loved to play.
Dad played JV his freshman year of high school, then three years of Varsity. That's right. THREE YEARS on the VARSITY team. I once saw a newspaper article that referred to my father as, "the little Chinese boy," or something close to that. He was considered an oddity on a team of tall white guys.
Apparently, Chinese American basketball players were as rare then as they are now.
(For the record, I was being sarcastic. Asian American basketball players are not rare. There are thousands of kids and adults who play, only it's sort of our secret since no one seems to notice them.)
My father played basketball in the Navy. Here he is with his team at the San Diego Training Station. They won the All-Service Tournament (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force). Dad's in the second row, second from the right.
Later he coached high school basketball, until he had to give it up because all the yelling wore on his vocal cords. He also refereed basketball games. I always remember my father in his striped shirts.
After I wrote my first novel, MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS, I decided to write a book about a boy. A boy who was obsessed with basketball. This boy, Stanford Wong, loved basketball more than anything else in the world. It defined him.
Stanford and his friend Marley Sandelski (who is featured in WARP SPEED) were losers. At least until basketball transformed one of them . . .
Stanford's dream was to play in the NBA. But until recently, there were no Chinese American NBA players players for him to emulate.
Though gifted athletically, Stanford struggled academically and flunked his English class because of book reports like this one . . .
If he didn't pass English in summer school, Stanford would get kicked off the basketball team -- thus ending his life. Here's what he imagined would be on his tombstone.
I got nervous when Stanford's book came out because it was featured in Sports Illustrated Kids and I was terrified I got some of the basketball parts wrong. But boys (and girls) have since said, "I love the basketball in your book. Did you play?"
Though I fenced in college, and I used to run, until I had some bad accidents, I am not sporty. It's sort of weird to me that all my books, except for ABSOLUTELY MAYBE, have sports in them.
STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME - basketball
MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS and SO TOTALLY EMILY EBERS - volleyball
WARP SPEED - running
GOOD LUCK, IVY - gymnastics
BOBBY VS. GIRLS (ACCIDENTALLY) and BOBBY THE BRAVE (SOMETIMES) - football and skateboarding
ALOHA, KANANI and GOOD JOB, KANANI - surfing, paddle board, snorkeling
When the Fox Sports Network included me on their list of "Americans in Focus," for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, I felt so honored. I went into the studio to shoot the segment and I talked about books, and a boy named Stanford Wong . . .
FOX Sports | Myspace Video
Flash-forward to early February when Jeremy Lin seemingly appeared out of nowhere and took the sports world by storm . . .
But he didn't come out of nowhere, did he?
He has a story.
Funny, but when we don't know someone's story, we think they didn't exist before. But that's not true. They've always been there. It's just that we never noticed.
Jeremy sure is getting noticed now.
When I googled "Jeremy Lin" on Saturday afternoon, over ONE QUARTER BILLION entries showed up. (Note: When I googled "Jeremy Lin," right before posting this blog, over 464,000,000 entries appeared.)
Everyone knows Jeremy's story now. But in case you're one of the four who don't, here it is. Jeremy Lin is a Chinese American kid who loved basketball. He was a star on his high school team, but wasn't offered any athletic scholarships. Smart enough to attend Harvard, he played on their team. Great player. Lots of promise.
Still, Jeremy was not drafted by the NBA. Why? Could it be his race? TIME magazine, back in 2009, brought up this topic.
Because, really, who ever heard of a Chinese player in the NBA? Sure, there's Yao Ming, but c'mon, there are over 1.6 billion Chinese in the world, and only two have played in the NBA.
BTW, Yao Ming (below) is not an American, and he's taller than Jeremy by over a foot, and outweighs him by about 100 pounds.
After being on a couple of other NBA teams, last week-ish Jeremy was called up to actually play for the Knicks.
Just that morning he was sleeping on a teammate's couch in NY and didn't know if the Knicks were going to keep him.
(Not actually photo of either his brother's couch or Jeremy.)
He dazzled in that first game, and the rest, as they say, is history.
CLICK HERE to read The Post article. Or Google him, if you've got a few thousand hours.
If I wrote STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME today, Stanford would have had a Jeremy Lin poster in his room, and a basketball hero who looked like him to aspire to. Although, unlike Jeremy, Stanford was not headed to Harvard . . .
Millicent Min, Stanford's brainiac nemesis, would have loved Jeremy's bookish pre-game ritual. Here he is, with fellow Knick's Ivy leaguer, Landry Fields who, incidentally, attended Stanford -- the school Stanford Wong is named after.
What the two are doing is flipping though page of a book -- taking off their glasses -- and then sticking them in their pocket protectors.
Stanford believed that basketball is life-transforming, just as girl genius, Millicent Min, believed that books are. They are both right.
Here's what my dad thinks about Jeremy Lin. "He mastered the fundamentals through constant hard work. Jeremy's in the right situation now because New York Knicks play an open, fast game which suits his style. This wide open court helped bring out his basketball savvy. He may not be as quick and athletic as other guards, but he makes up for it with his knowledge of the game and quick thinking on his feet. Jeremy sees the whole picture when he's on the court . . . he's a team player and does his best to be part of a cohesive unit."
Here's what I think about Jeremy Lin -- Everything my father said, plus, it doesn't matter if Jeremy never wins another game, though I hope he does. In these past months with irate Americans mad at this and that, and various factions of country at each other's throats, we all stopped, for just a bit, to watch basketball, an all-American game.
We stopped to watch a young man who pursued his childhood dream to play for the NBA, and against all odds, he made it. He is an inspiration to not only to Chinese Americans, Harvard grads, basketball boys and girls, and New Yorkers, but to anyone who has ever had a dream. Heck, if Lakers fans could root for a Knicks player, then anything is possible.
As for my father. He's 80 years old . . . and he still plays basketball. His eyes are weaker, and his knees aren't what they used to be, and that bypass surgery kept him out for a bit, but he's still in the game.
Dad plays with other seniors, and while they may not make as many baskets as they used to, they still know how to have a good time.
Disclaimer: No proofreaders were harmed (or even used) in the creation of this blog.
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