Extra: Jeremy Lin Full Interview
A conversation with veteran N.B.A. point guard Jeremy Lin, recorded for the Freakonomics Radio series “The Hidden Side of Sports.”
Listen and subscribe to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or elsewhere. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.
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This is a Freakonomics Radio extra: our full conversation with N.B.A. point guard Jeremy Lin, because the new N.B.A. season has just begun! We interviewed Lin for our ongoing “Hidden Side of Sports” series. You may remember hearing in an earlier episode — No. 351, called “Here’s Why You’re Not an Elite Athlete” — how Lin was overlooked out of high school and college, at least in part because as an Asian-American kid, he didn’t “look the part” of an N.B.A. player. Nor did it help that he played his college ball at Harvard, which is not a basketball powerhouse. But he exploded onto the world sports stage in 2012, in what came to be known as “Linsanity,” leading the New York Knicks to multiple victories and putting up a personal stats line that would make a superstar happy. Lin is now with the Atlanta Hawks, his seventh team in nine seasons; he’s no longer a starter. He is, however, in the third and final year of a $38 million contract. We spoke a few days ago; Lin had come straight from practice.
Stephen DUBNER: Hey, Jeremy. Can you hear me?
Jeremy LIN: Yeah.
DUBNER: Hey, nice to meet you. How’s it going?
LIN: Nice to meet you as well.
DUBNER: So Jeremy, what would you say is one of the biggest differences between being a professional athlete and what the average fan thinks it’s like to be a professional athlete?
LIN: You know, everything. I just don’t think the average fan really understands much about what it means to be a professional athlete. To have your life in constant scrutiny and all the pressures, you have to think — yeah. Every athlete is obviously making a lot of money, but how many people are trying to pull and pry and the tug and pull at the different pressures at each and every single person in that person’s life? And a lot of people that you love dearly, you have to say no to constantly or you have to set up boundaries for yourself because everyone wants something from you. And that’s just the people that you love.
And then there’s the people that you don’t know and all the different business opportunities and all these different things. And then the other thing is everyone thinks it’s fun. You’re paid to play basketball. All you do is like play basketball. You should make your shots or you should — and people don’t understand the pressure, this is not fun and games show up at the Y.M.C.A. or go down a street to a rec-league, this is people fighting for their livelihood and fighting for their families. And this is a real thing. And injuries and things like that, fans are so quick to dismiss it or make fun of someone someone like Derrick Rose, like “Oh man, he’s constantly injured!” and they’re making fun of it. But the guy has spent all his time making himself a great basketball player. That’s what he loves doing. The amount of effort, the heart, the love for the game, those types of things, and then for everyone else to from the outside come in and make fun of him or whatever in his 25th year. Meanwhile, he spent 25 years giving up all the different temptations or the different things that everyone else has allowed themselves to enjoy. But he’s done it to become better at basketball and he — So there’s a lot of heart and effort that goes into these things.
But then fans are so quick to just only think about it from their end. I can’t tell you how many fans have come up to me and they’re like, “Man. you’re on my fantasy team and you got hurt. You hurt my fantasy team!” I’m like, “Are you comparing what I do and what I love and what keeps me up at night and the thing that I’ve put tens of thousands of hours into to your little fantasy thing that you just showed up for one day and did a 60-minute draft for?’” It’s just funny because the fans are actually invested, right? They’re invested but they could never compare to what an actual athlete has invested into their own life.
I definitely — I just warn people and try to warn my friends and my family to when they are making judgments on a football player or on anybody or even a musician. It’s like, man, we just don’t understand how hard it is to be that and how much it takes to be great. That’s the other thing, fans think, “Man I could take him” or “I could beat him in one on one” or whatever. And it’s like, do you understand how great — there’s six and a half billion people and there’s only 450 that make it to the N.B.A. Like, respect greatness. That’s kind of what I would say to a lot of fans.
DUBNER: So I understand — I think this is true that you were an econ major at Harvard, is that right?
DUBNER: Yeah. Was that, in retrospect, a good choice?
LIN: I don’t know. I think the verdict is still out. I can tell you that it doesn’t help me at all with my current job, and I haven’t used it at all since I graduated, but it’s something that I’m going to use somewhere down the road, hopefully. I majored in economics and then minored in sociology, and I’m really interested in poor communities and why they’re poor and how do you help underprivileged children and how do you really boost the economy of struggling areas. That’s really the reason why I kind of blended econ and sociology together. But again, that’s probably going to be post-basketball more than anything.
DUBNER: So do you have thoughts about what specifically you want to do after basketball toward addressing those kinds of problems?
LIN: I think for me, I have a foundation, the Jeremy Lin Foundation, and I really want to work a lot with that, work a lot with the communities that we’re involved with and the organizations and the N.G.O.’s that we’re partnering with. And I always — it’s tough to say — I don’t really know exactly, but I kind of see myself investing in one or two locations primarily. I just think for me right now, playing in the N.B.A, it’s hard because I have such limited time but if I could do anything when I retire it’s to be able to really invest and live and constantly be in that one community that I really want to work with and change.
DUBNER: So let me ask you this: something you mentioned about trying to focus on your athletic afterlife during your athletic career. It’s always struck me that there’s a real paradox there which is that when you’re a professional athlete, that comes with a lot of leverage, obviously. And one leverage is that you can have — you can meet people. People are excited to meet you. Maybe to work with you and so on. But as you said, you can’t really devote the time to invest in developing what will be your afterlife. And I’m curious if that’s a conflict for you. Is this idea that you have something that you’d like to be developing now, that you’d like to be setting yourself up better for now, but the athletic career just conflicts too much? And are you worried that by the time you’re done playing you’ll be left behind in a way?
LIN: I’m not too worried about that because, I think, for me I have — I’ve hired four people who worked for me full time, and they manage everything from my — the agents all the different agencies that represent me across the world. So I have a Taiwan agency, a China agency, a U.S. agency. We have a whole bunch of business ventures. We have a bunch of stuff on the foundation side, we have eSports organizations that we’re owners in. So we have so many things going on and I have a core team of people who I’ve hired. And we’re constantly building towards post-basketball. We’ve laid out so many steps and done so many things in all these different areas and in these venues.
I think for me — I understand, like you said, when I retire if I haven’t been in those networks or if I haven’t established those relationships or if I have done absolutely nothing to prepare myself, I will miss the boat. But I think from our end, we are really really proactive about it. Right now we’re going out, we’re meeting people, we’re doing different things and we’re collaborating. I think that’s really fun to see. But also on the flip side, I am still a basketball player, and I can’t put so much into it that it jeopardizes my career or jeopardizes my ability to perform on the court and that’s where there’s a nice balance of people around me that are helping me with that. And then it’s a constant discussion and we’re in dialogue of how to maximize my time because we know that I’m not going to have as much as I would when I retire.
DUBNER: How much time in a day do you spend during the off-season, basically being a professional athlete whether it’s working out or watching film or whatever? In other words are you pretty much full time year round as an athlete, or no?
LIN: Definitely all year around. I pretty much — after the season — I take two, three weeks off and then I’m back to training. And when I’m training, it’s probably going to take four hours a day. The body can’t really handle that much more than four hours of intense training. If you go lighter training, you can do it for longer, but yeah. So normally it’s about four hours and then I spent a lot of the rest of the time doing a lot of the off-the-court stuff.
DUBNER: And then just for a minute more on the after the N.B.A. career: what do you envision yourself specifically being or doing? In other words, do you want to be the public facing person who’s running a big N.G.O. that works with different cities? Or do you want to be behind the scenes? Do you want to be involved in research? Do you want to be involved in the political end? I’m curious.
LIN: I haven’t fully figured that out. And we’ve done a lot of visioning and we have different discussions and this is something that we talk about every year, is what it looks like. I think it’s going to end up being a blend of a bunch of different things, but the primary targets are going to still be being a big part of my foundation, and that’s being the face and being out and meeting people, attending events or hosting events, getting into high level meetings and things like that. And some of it might cross into public policy or it might cross into meeting with government officials in China or different things like that. Whatever it really takes to help people.
And then I think I’ll also be on the ground as well, spending a lot of time with the actual people and kids and things like that. And then I think I’ll be traveling to do different things like public speaking or showing up at different events. With business ventures, I have a basketball league with many basketball schools in China and we have thousands of kids and we’re growing a lot. And then I think there’s definitely something that I’ll continue to do is — I was just on a show this past year or this past — I filmed it this past summer. And actually it’s midway through, I think it’s probably through eight or six of the episodes and there’s maybe — we’re probably at the halfway point of the season and in China I think we’re at, 800–900 million views at this point.
DUBNER: Oh my, wow.
LIN: Yeah. So that’s three times the U.S. population. It’s a monstrous show, a huge endeavor. So I think there are certain things in that where the exposure that I get from that is so far beyond, really, anything that I’ve been a part of. As I think about my role and the values that I’m trying to push and the things that I’m trying to push even being on those shows is going to be something that I may consider doing, even after basketball.
DUBNER: What is that show about? Is it a reality show of your life, or no?
LIN: No. It’s a reality basketball show but it pairs — Basically there’s two teams, and I’m the coach of one team and I’m partnered with Jay Chow who is a big time, absolute legend, musician. Every single person in Asia knows who he is. And he’s been a huge — he’s dominated a lot of the music scene for the last 20 years. And then on the other team there’s the number one point guard in all of China, and they just won the championship in the C.B.A., and he is paired with one of the hottest actors in China right now.
And they have their team, and me and Jay, we have our team. And it’s like a reality show, and we coach these players and we choose different players to represent our teams and you start with 150-ish players and then you whittle it down to your team and you do different competitions and the loser — you keep kicking people out if you lose. And it goes through a lot of life stuff, obviously, because these kids are living together and it’s filmed over the course of a few months. It’s pretty fun.
DUBNER: Wow, sounds fun. And congratulations on the success, obviously. That’s great. When you look at your post-N.B.A. life and career, how do you think about balancing the philanthropic and the commercial? In other words, do you want to do a lot of projects and businesses that make a lot of money, or are you mostly interested in focusing on philanthropy?
LIN: That’s a great question. And I don’t have a super solid answer other than I am very idealistic. I dream big and I would love to do both. And what I mean by that is I don’t really see them totally as two separate arms. When I think about my business stuff, I actually connect a lot of my philanthropy into it. Even now when I do stuff, when I get equity in companies or when I have endorsements that pay me or whatever. Or even what I do with my personal finances or things like that. Everything kind of ties back into everything, and my goal is to have my endorsements and my business ventures in those different things supporting my foundation and supporting the kids.
And then even if, for example, you have let’s say this league, right? So we have this basketball league that I started, but this basketball league throws together this crazy — it’s this huge celebrity charity game. And we fill an arena with 10,000 people and we get some of the top celebrities to come in Asia. We’ve done it two years in a row. And this past year we had I believe 18 million people watching online.
LIN: And then after we have a massive auction. And there’s a foundation that is aiming towards helping underprivileged children. We’re going to build courts in really poor areas. We’re going to give scholarships to kids who love basketball but couldn’t afford it. And we’re going to do a lot of different things. That’s a great example of a way that I can tie those things together. Obviously we’re going to make money through the league if we do it right. But where’s that money going and obviously the business needs to be self-sustaining and you need to continue to kick back and pay back your investors or make a profit but there’s a portion of that that should always be going towards helping other people who really, really need it. I’ll never be the person who just wants to make top dollar. I think for me I would rather have top impact over top dollar.
LIN: But what I’ve kind of been learning too is that they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive. If you just run a great business, you can do that really well and you can also help people really well, and all of a sudden you’re looking at top profit and top impact. And I think even in personal finances, a great example of that is impact investing. I don’t invest in things that really manipulate or take advantage or exploit people that are really underprivileged. And on the flip side, I invest in a lot of things that have high impact so: impact investing; I’ve invested in certain movies that promote really good causes; or I have invested in people who buy run down buildings, rebuild them, and actually offer lower rent to widows or people who are really at risk or things like that.
And again, at the same time, it’s still a viable business model. You’re buying these buildings for really cheap, but then you’re doing really good things with it. That’s where if you really want to do it and if you’ve spent the time and you have a heart for it. you can be great on the commercial side and on the philanthropic side.
DUBNER: So as a player in the modern N.B.A., your career has intersected with a phenomenally good financial setup. The N.B.A. is has the highest average salary for athletes by a long shot, in part because the rosters are relatively small. I see that your current contract, you’re in the third year of a $38 million contract. So that’s for one person, even after taxes and agent management, etc. you personally are obviously doing really well and your family and so on, you’re in great shape. You grew up with immigrant parents, Palo Alto, California, not a lot of money. I’m just curious what the adjustment has been like for you personally to make that much money. And I’m curious if you spend a lot and get a lot of pleasure from that or if you’re maybe on the other extreme where, having grown up without a lot, you kind of stay in that lane and don’t spend a ton and save it for the future, maybe for the philanthropic projects and so on. What’s your — so basically, that was a long way of asking what’s your personal financial philosophy like these days?
LIN: Yeah, my my personal financial philosophy is — and it has always been pretty much the same, like you said, immigrant parents. I would say my parents, they made a solid amount for sure. We weren’t upper class but we definitely weren’t the bottom of the bottom. We were middle class, for sure. And I think — but the problem is our expenses were so high. We —
DUBNER: Because of you primarily trying to —
LIN: All of us. But all of us because my parents gave us the widest range of extracurriculars to allow us to really pursue any avenue we wanted. I’ve taken classes to be an E.M.T. because I thought that’s maybe something I’d want to do. I’ve taken dental classes, I’ve done every type for a ton of different instruments, Chinese school, drawing classes. I’ve done anything that I wanted to pursue. They’ve really done a great job of allowing me — but not just for me, also my brothers. And then on top of that, growing up, they knew the Palo Alto school system was so good, so we went, they went, and got a house there. But obviously the mortgage and things like that. And then all of a sudden you have three boys who are all playing basketball and playing at a high level and traveling and it’s really expensive to do that.
And to continue to support our basketball careers as we got older and older was just harder and harder, and all of a sudden the kids were all in college. And there is definitely — we needed help. We’ve taken loans and we had financial aid and all those different things. And my grandmother helped me out for one year for my tuition and things like that. But my number one priority coming out was to make sure that I got everything situated with my family. And the next priority was to make sure that my family is good forever. And the thing is, my family doesn’t spend that much. We didn’t grow up with a lot, we don’t need a lot. And that’s true for all of us. So it’s pretty easy, but I’m just making sure that everybody will always be okay financially no matter what. That’s my number one goal.
And then I wanted to just take care of my parents, get them some nice stuff and spoil them a little bit. And then, as for me, I don’t need that much. I live comfortably but I wouldn’t say that I don’t think I live extravagantly. Again, a lot of what I’m focused on right now is how do I make an impact with my money. So whether it’s tithes and offerings or whether it’s donating to my foundation. We had one kickoff event, I believe, like six years ago or something like that. And we had that one event, but besides that, everything else has been just funded personally. I don’t ever want to get outside of myself or live to a point — I mean, even if I could have the thing — certain things, I feel like there’s better things I could be doing with it.
DUBNER: What would you say is the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought or spent money on for yourself?
LIN: For myself — I bought a Jeep Wrangler and then I just had some fun with it. I put 20 to 25 new things into it, changed the rims and all the different stuff. So that’s probably been —
DUBNER: Yeah, but that’s still like a 10th of a Lamborghini or something though, right?
LIN: Yeah. I’ve leased more expensive cars. But for that reason, it’s like I knew that — well I’ve only leased one other more expensive car, but that’s actually cheaper than when I straight bought a car and made a bunch of changes. I actually haven’t bought myself a house yet, and I just feel I don’t need it right now. I’m renting. I’m moving every year.
DUBNER: I just have to say, you said earlier that you thought you’re not applying anything you learned as an econ major in college, but I would argue that it sounds like, at least in your personal finance life, it’s paying off. You understand the value of renting a car and not putting a lot of money into a house when you’re going to be moving every year. So I don’t think you should sell Harvard so short for —
LIN: No, no. It has nothing to do with — I’m never going to sell them short. It’s an amazing college. I just meant my career path is so different. But you’re right, had I gone into something that’s very economics oriented, Harvard would have more than prepared me for that. All my friends are doing amazing things. It’s so cool to see just my teammates and my friends from Harvard and what they’re doing now. But yeah, economics has not really helped me with putting an orange basketball through a hoop.
DUBNER: Let me ask you about analytics. As someone who did study economics at Harvard in school you probably have a little bit more of a sense of how data is used to understand the world generally, and obviously analytics in sports has been a big story for a long time now. There are some people that would argue that analytics have revolutionized sport and there are some people who would say, and I probably put myself a little bit in the second camp, who would say that the revolution is nowhere near as revolutionary as people think, that as much data as there is in sports that it hasn’t really been used all that much or at least used to its potential. I’m curious which camp you’re in, if either. I’d love to have an example from you of where analytics that’s generated either by your organization or someone outside or maybe you has changed the way you thought about the way you train or play or approach the game or approach a particular opponent. Anything like that?
LIN: Actually, yeah. I feel like analytics has completely changed the game. From when I came into the league until now, it’s like back-to-the-basket, low-post players are virtually unseen. Everyone is becoming a — It doesn’t matter how tall you are, but you’ve got to learn how to shoot a three. You have to learn how to face up and dribble the basketball and do different things and play — And just opening up the middle of the floor a lot more and the game is becoming just more tailored to layups, free throws and threes because those analytically are the most efficient shot.
So I actually think analytics has played an enormous role. It has validated a lot of players like Steve Nash and Steph Curry and people who are doing things, but like before it may have been kind of crazy for them to play that way. But now we’re seeing no, that’s actually the best way to play. You’re supposed to play like that. That’s how you’re going to score the most points.
DUBNER: And a lot of the things that you’re describing that analytics puts a higher value on tend to be things — are things that actually you’re pretty good at. Although you were not a great three-point shooter coming into the league. You’ve gotten better, yes?
LIN: Yeah. The last season that I played, I was able to get up to 38 percent but I would love to continue to increase that. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. When I came in, I really struggled with that. But again, it’s something that it’s a necessity. It’s like if I want to play in today’s day and age I really have to be able to improve that.
LIN: Maybe where I stand though is I definitely appreciate the importance of analytics but I think that I can’t go so far in that direction that I lose the instinctual creativity of the basketball instincts. A great debate is whether to shoot the midrange jumper because it’s a much more inefficient shot. And for me, my thought process is if it’s there, you’ve got to take it. You don’t want to take it every possession. But if it’s there, you have to take it. And the reason why is if you’re going to take it, be great at it and hit that shot right.
And then also the other thing about it is if you don’t take that shot, you’re not getting to the rim, they’re just going to keep backing up, keep backing up, keep backing up. In some ways, you have to keep the defense honest. There has to be some — I wouldn’t say never shoot the midrange. It’s just don’t shoot the mid-range so much that you’re still reliant on it. Your goal is still to aim for layups, free throws, and threes. But if the opportunity presents itself, then you’ve got to step up and take that shot.
DUBNER: Right. So one reason your career has been so interesting to so many people starting with — Well most people discovered you with the New York Knicks even though you’d been in the N.B.A. before that with the Warriors. But you were famously overlooked and we talked to Daryl Morey about that. We’ve talked about that a little bit more on the show. I know that was a long time ago now in your life. It was literally a third of your life ago. And I’m guessing there are parts of those early chapters that you’re happy or pretty distant. But I am curious if you’re willing to engage in it for a minute just to talk about why — maybe the dimension or dimensions plural on which you were overlooked and why and kind of what are the lessons to be learned from that. For not just for you not just for basketball but for anybody.
LIN: I definitely think my numbers didn’t blow anybody away from college, my stats. But I think a lot of that again is you’re going to have to see everybody comes from a different system. So what is this system?What is that person capable of? What will that person look like in your system? Right? That’s going to be something that’s important. You see a bunch of busts as well, the reason why is because maybe they looked great in one system but when they get to the N.B.A. that’s not what it’s going to look like. I think the other thing that people really are now probably going to scale more towards, but sometimes is often overlooked is the mental side of things. And the best players are the mentally strongest. They’re the ones who can learn from their mistakes. They’re the ones who can fight through adversity. They’re the ones who continue to believe in themselves and aren’t afraid of the challenges ahead. And things like that.
And then the people that kind of bow out or don’t do great are usually the ones who maybe are a little bit more lazy or a little bit quick to make excuses or blame other people or things. Obviously, these are huge generalizations. But I would say there’s an overall trend, obviously, with the harder somebody works or the more somebody believes in themselves and really does exhaust every avenue to make themselves as great as they can. Like the inner drive of how bad they want it and then, obviously, I think for me, race, the way I looked. And I’ve said this before, but everything I’ve always done has been deceptive. So I’ve never been athletic, I’ve just been deceptively athletic. I’ve never been quick, I’ve only been deceptively quick. It didn’t matter. Like when the stats came out, I was tied for first with John Wall for speed. And he is —
DUBNER: This is for the combine, yes?
LIN: Yeah, and he is — people call him freakishly athletic, freakishly quick and then I’m deceptively quick or deceptively athletic. I think before I got hurt for maybe two or three years, again, me and John Wall led all point guards in blocks per 48 minutes. When he gets a block it’s — And he is he’s a great defender he’s a great shot blocker and he is really quick. He deserves all the credit and more than he’s getting. In many ways, he’s overlooked as well. But again, people won’t see me as like — and obviously I don’t jump as high or whatever but there — maybe there’s something else. Maybe it’s timing maybe it’s whatever it is that allows me to get those blocks and to get them at a high rate. But for me, everything I’ve done has always been deceptively whatever. I just don’t look the part. And I understand that.
DUBNER: I mean, in a way, though, both of those descriptions are, whether you want to call them racist or biased or wherever, they’re both in their way insulting, don’t you think? Because to call someone freakishly blank or amazingly, naturally blank is to say that they don’t have to work at it, and to call you deceptively means that there’s not an innate talent. Do you think they’re both — Do you agree that they’re both kind of limited descriptions and maybe a little bit offensive in their way?
LIN: Yeah, and that’s something that I’ve said. I think John Wall is an underappreciated point guard. And our stories have crossed paths many times and whether it’s in summer league or whatever. But yeah, look: the reality is not everyone’s going to be as fast or jump as high as John Walls. There is a talent component to it. And then there’s the other part which is — or the nature part and then there’s the nurture part where he works hard. He loves the game. He has put a lot into it. He is extremely competitive and he has done many things right to be able to put himself in a position to succeed.
And you can’t take away one by only recognizing the other. For him, maybe people are more like, “Oh he’s so talented, he’s so talented and they take away a little bit from his work that he’s put in. For me, maybe people scale more towards like, “Oh, he must work so hard, he must work so hard.” And maybe not recognize — maybe there’s a little bit of talent because if you took everybody else and they work just as hard as me without talent they still wouldn’t be in the N.B.A.. So there is — you have to honor both sides.
DUBNER: And you’re here today to set the record straight and say that you actually don’t work hard at all you’re incredibly lazy. You’re just purely actually talented right.
DUBNER: Let me just ask you: I’m really curious about the role of faith in your life as a basketball player. So a lot of athletes throughout history have been very religious, and some of them invoke that faith more in public than others. I’m just curious how it works for you, but I’m also curious how it works and the team chemistry. A basketball team is relatively small. You’re traveling with each other all year round. And I’m curious whether there’s a division between those who are religious or openly profess their faith and those who don’t. Whether it breaks up in cliques at all? And also just how your faith affects your life as an athlete, your career as an athlete.
LIN: I think for me the simplest way I can describe it is I don’t really think that much about whether I’m — I’m just trying to be as authentic as I can be. So when people ask me questions or when I live a certain way, when I live a certain lifestyle or when I make decisions it goes back to authenticity or what I feel like is right. I think for me, the N.B.A. is a place where people constantly are meeting new types of people. We have lots of foreigners. We have some — now more Asians. We have African-Americans, we have whites, we have people who come from all different states, countries everywhere. People are very respectful of other people. And the other thing is because you spend so much time around each other, you really learn who that person is. And you really learn more about who people are. And there’s just a natural respect that has grown through spending time with people or losing respect for them.
And for me it’s — I’m going to — faith is everything for me. I know I wouldn’t be here without it. I know that in my times where I’ve wanted to quit, faith has allowed me not to. I know that in many situations that I couldn’t control there was something different, something divine. There’s been too many coincidences in my life for it to just be pure chance. Actually, this is may be the economic side of it. But I wrote down a list of all different things that had to happen for me to experience this entity. And every single one on that list was outside of my control. So I made sure everything on that list was something that I couldn’t control. And then I was like, “Let’s just say that I put on some random probability and even if I was really generous, okay my parents are both five-foot-six and I am six-foot-three. Both my parents are not above 140 pounds and I am 205 pounds. What is the probability of that happening?”
Even if I was generous, and then I multiplied all those to make sure that all these 13 things had happened. The probability that you’re looking at just from pure math is 0.000-something-something-1. That’s like if I was going to actually calculate that probability. So again, my story that has never happened before. No one has ever walked a path I’ve walked. And I think there’s something divine about it, and I think whether other people want to admit it or not, I think that something that everyone else looks back on and hears when they hear or think about my story they’re just like, “Dude that was amazing. That was crazy. That was miraculous. I’ve never seen anything like it.” There’s an awe to it.
And I think my story is very much an exhibit of God’s power, God’s fingerprints working in my life. And that’s the best way — And trust me I’m the first person that would love to take all the credit for if I knew I should. I would, right? But I just know I can’t. And even with my teammates, I just try to be the same person. I try to be what I say I am. And I think over time they learn who I am and they respect me and vice versa.
DUBNER: Of all the things that you’ve learned about let’s say people and circumstances by having a pro-basketball career. What do you think will be the most valuable experience you’ve drawn from that career that’s going to help you? Aside from being famous, aside from having a lot of money, aside from having a lot of connections, what have you learned about how to interact with people or maybe something you’ve learned about how to learn that you got from your career that you think will be really beneficial in your afterlife?
LIN: I think that’s a great question. I think I would give two answers. The first is what really matters: purpose. I think everyone deep down, innately, we are built to want to live a purposeful life. No one wants to waste their life. No one wants to live a purposeless or meaningless life. And going through my boss of a career, I’ve really learned the ups and downs and what really matters. And I think I’ve also learned to be grateful and enjoy each moment because these moments, you don’t get back. And that’s maybe the most powerful lesson — and that’s where faith obviously ties into all of it, is just: what is my true purpose or what is true joy. And of those type of things.
The other thing that I would say: communication. If there’s anything I’ve learned is communication. It could be a marriage, it could be in your family, it could be on the court, it could be with someone you don’t like it, could be with a co-worker, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t know how to communicate, things are gonna break down, things are gonna fail. And if you notice a trend of people in your life or experiences where you’re constantly like it’s not working out, you should probably look in the mirror and realize that you’re probably not the best at communicating, and I’ve had to change a lot of the ways that I communicate. I’ve learned so much about communication, different styles, different people with different personalities.
How do you make somebody motivated and that — and each person is their own puzzle. You can’t, there is no blueprint solution. You can’t treat everybody the same. Everybody is different and even someone who is an extrovert, you can’t treat two extroverts the same. You can’t treat two introverts the same. Everybody is a different puzzle and you have to take the time to love and serve them and know them and then communicate well with them. And when you communicate well with somebody like that is the beauty of sports. That’s the beauty of life, whether you’re teaming up in marriage or teaming up in being a sibling, you’re teaming up as a basketball player — as basketball players. The beauty is when you communicate well and you do things well and you have good synergy and teamwork that makes life a lot more fun.
DUBNER: I’m so glad I got the chance to talk with you today, Jeremy. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot and I appreciate the time and I wish you the best going forward in basketball and everything else.
LIN: Appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time as well.
Thanks to Jeremy Lin. If you haven’t already done so, check out our “Hidden Side of Sports” series. We’ve already put out three episodes and are working on several more. We’ll also publishing a lot of these extra, full interviews on Stitcher Premium, along with other bonus episodes: use promo code FREAKONOMICS for one month free.
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Freakonomics Radio is produced by Stitcher and Dubner Productions. Our “Hidden Side of Sports” series is produced by Anders Kelto and Derek John, with help from Harry Huggins. Our staff also includes Alison Craiglow, Greg Rosalsky, Greg Rippin, Alvin Melathe, and Zack Lapinski. We had help this week from Nellie Osborne. The music you hear throughout the episode was composed by Luis Guerra. You can subscribe to Freakonomics Radio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.