The big story this week in basketball is a Cinderella tale. And it’s not even March Madness time yet.

The emergence from bleak obscurity of Jeremy Lin (no relation) into the NBA joining the New York Knicks would have been deemed outlandish if someone had written that movie script (and someone will write the script be you me).

Lin’s triumph has the pundits’ brains whirring (after all how could the great and vast assembly of hoop wisdom have missed this gem?). And many of the insights about Lin revolve as tightly around embracing failure as he revolved around Derek Fisher in the play of the week.

This new wunderkind is himself is a catalogue of failures…

  • Neglected by college recruiters (despite leading his team to a California state championship) and he was only offered ‘walk on’ opportunities at Pac-10 schools.
  • Undrafted out of college.
  • Demoted to Warriors (the first NBA team to try him out) D-League development team.
  • Waived by both Warriors and Rockets (who picked him up for a short period at the outset of this season).

But all that was just a preclude to becoming the most talked about story in New York since the Super Bowl, and the most talked about player of the year. And that rags-to-riches story is rich with failure…

Failure by Knicks spurring creative options

  • “’Players don’t come out of nowhere,’ Bryant said. What he was trying to say was this: The talent’s there, but sometimes the opportunity isn’t. It takes the right circumstances and timing, the right coach, right system. And sometimes, it takes desperation to try anything. And for these New York Knicks, well, Jeremy Lin constituted anything.” – Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports

If the Knicks hadn’t suffered quite so much with the injury to star guard Carmelo Anthony on top of an otherwise lacklustre season, finally topped off by the short-term absence of their superstar Stoudemire, then they would never have resorted to such a drastic measure as considering Lin.

The comment also underscores a critical dimension to ones dreams coming true – luck. Talent – check; hard work – check. But it does take the third ingredient of luck to separate the budding from the shooting stars.

Failure of tactical retreat

“It wasn’t easy. Lin received limited minutes and seemed lost on the rare occasions he did play. He was eventually sent to Reno for two extended stints in the D-League, and Lin credits Bighorns coach (and former Warriors head coach) Eric Musselman for helping him regain the swagger he showed over the summer.”Slam Online

In fact, NBA.com noted that playing a full 4 years in University (opposed to many superstars who leap to the NBA early) gave him more time to develop his skill and maturity as a player before being immersed in the meatgrinder pressures of the big league.

Failure of hard knocks

  • Lin was struggling, and would take more serious jabs from the other players. Away from the media, [Coach] Smart instituted a rule during intrasquad scrimmages that no foul committed against Lin would ever be called. ‘He’s tough as nails,’ Smart says. ‘I thought it was necessary for him to understand that as a no-name guy, you won’t get any favors. So you’ve got to work through all that. And he’s done that.’” – Slam Online

Many commentators have noted his trademark “poise” and speculate that it was hardened in his tough career. Unlike the superstars who take a non-stop escalator to stardom, he has suffered so many blows and setbacks, that no difficult situation phases him now.

Failure to ‘look the part’ enhances his appeal

  • “[Lin] still gets stopped at Madison Square Garden security, suspected of being one of the team’s trainers – not its point guard…Out there, all alone, those gangly arms, that baby face – well, Lin hardly looks the part. That’s the beauty of him, of this story. That nothing is how it’s supposed to be, how we’ve ever witnessed a star burst onto the scene.” – Yahoo Sports
  • “I just think in order for someone to understand my game, they have to watch me more than once, because I’m not going to do anything that’s extra flashy or freakishly athletic." – Jeremy Lin

In a superficial world, failing to look the part can be a major liability. A hardship minorities and others on the spectrum of diversity have had to content with for ages. But that same Asian ethnicity that duped scouts’ preconceived notions, now lays the foundation for uniquely lucrative endorsements and audience growth.

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