Here’s the Jeremy Lin narrative that everyone is running with — Lin was a diamond in the rough, and he’s now finally been discovered after years of being overlooked.The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about how college recruiters somehow missed him coming out of high school.
And after Lin scored 38 points on Friday against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant echoed the popular opinion on the nature of Lin’s rise, saying, “Players don’t usually come out of nowhere. If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning, but no one ever noticed.”
But there exists a second narrative that’s probably closer to the truth: maybe Jeremy Lin just got better.
The notion that basketball players can’t change — that their relative abilities will be constant at all ages and in all circumstances — is ridiculous.
Lin didn’t get recruited by UCLA because, at the time, he wasn’t good enough. Even when he was at Harvard, he wasn’t a dominant player — he averaged 12.9 points per game (16 his senior year, though), his team never won a league title, and he never won Ivy League Player of the Year.
If Lin always had the abilities he’s showing now (like Kobe and everyone else seems to believe), than he would have shown it earlier.
The more likely explanation for Lin’s rise is that he slowly but surely added more pieces to his game — learning how to finish in traffic, understanding how pro defenses play the pick-and-roll, and improving his iffy jump shot — until he became the player he is today.
Lin wasn’t always this good, and that makes his rise even more impressive.
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