Jeremy Lin believes Serbian big man Nikola Jokic deserves to be named MVP this season. The 2019 NBA champion shared his thoughts on Jokic, Luka Doncic, and the possibility of playing in Europe with BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan at the Collision conference
From his impact on Asian Americans to what he learned from Linsanity, Jeremy Lin had a lot to talk about at the Collision conference, organised by Web Summit, which is being held virtually and staged out of Toronto, Canada. There was one matter on which he had no doubt, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets deserves to be this year’s NBA most valuable player.
“What he’s doing is ridiculous. The end of the season will be interesting. He’s definitely a front runner right now and Denver is playing really well,” Lin told BallinEurope.
“The only other person I’d put into consideration is Steph Curry, what he’s doing is historic. There are good candidates on the Sixers and the Jazz but, to me, it’s still Jokic.”
On Luka Doncic
Like many players in the NBA, Lin has been astounded by the start Luka Doncic has made to his NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks.
“I’m not sure if people expected him to do what he has done in his first three years and how fast he has done it. He has been really beyond expectations, past the hype he had coming in. We know now he’s going to be one of the top scorers in the league, a triple double threat every time,” said Lin.
“He has shown a lot but that next stage for him is can he win and win on the highest level? Can he bring his team to do things that other superstars continue to do. He’s only in his third year, he has plenty of time, but he’s ahead of what anybody could have asked.”
What he learned from Linsanity
Collision is a tech conference so, naturally, one of the questions in the press conference with Lin was about his advice for entrepreneurs. In this instance, the journalist asked him how an entrepreneur could achieve Linsanity.
“When I think back on the Linsanity time, what made it special…the reality is there are so many things we can control. The Linsanity status isn’t the end all. It’s more about whether you are putting yourself in a position to give yourself a chance to succeed and breakthrough,” he said.
“It comes with consistent work, understanding what you are good at, and honing that craft. It starts with what you are doing behind the scenes when nobody’s looking. Are you continually investing and pouring into the same thing, knowing that a breakthrough might not come but you are prepared for it? When those doors open, you can walk through with full confidence trusting the preparation and work you put in.”
Sticking with the tech theme and the popularity of NBA Top Shot, it wasn’t a surprise that Lin was asked what he thought about non fungible tokens, better known as NFTs, and whether the NBA should use them.
“To me, it’s very smart. The NBA has done an amazing job of building the business and finding so many different ways to generate revenue. The NBA has done such an amazing job, even with the cooperation with the union, to leverage different forms of revenue and to engage with fans,” he said.
“We are all beneficiaries of what the NBA has done and this is another example of them being innovative and doing really good work.”
Lin’s reason for appearing at Collision was to talk about his work with his foundation, which is helping young people particularly those of an Asian American background.
“I’m trying to understand what it means to speak out and to use my platform more. My foundation started in 2010, when I first entered the NBA. I felt we were doing good work in a lot of cities but we didn’t have a strong vision,” said Lin.
“We revamped everything. Right now we’re focusing on AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] youth empowerment and leadership development. We want to help these children to be the best versions of themselves. We are working with great organisations that work with AAPI youth who also have some level of cross racial solidarity.”
Lin spent the 2019/20 season in China, where he was named as an All Star while playing for the Beijing Ducks. He described the experience to BallinEurope.
“It was so interesting. It’s the closest to what Linsanity felt like in New York with the hype and buzz. Even with away games, I’d stay in a hotel and fans somehow figured out what room I was in. There were situations where I’d need security because I couldn’t walk through the hotel lobby without getting mobbed,” said Lin.
“It was so fun to experience the fans, the hype, the excitement.”
Lin said his time in China also helped him develop ideas around his foundation.
“It showed me just how different the territories are and how different the needs are. If you really want to do philanthropic work, you really have to lean into the experts on the ground who have been in that space,” he said.
“You have to find out how you can assist and bring your unique skill set. For me it might be basketball, or my network, or my approach to training. It opened my mind to what philanthropy looks like in different territories.”
Becoming a champion
Lin was part of the Toronto Raptors roster that lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2019. In the process, Lin became the first Asian American to win a NBA Championship, not that he really realised it at the time.
“History is meant to be made. If you put your best foot forward, you never know. Nobody really saw it coming, in terms of Toronto winning it all. Even at that moment, I didn’t know that I would be the first Asian American to win a championship. I was just immersed in the journey,” he said.
“When it happened, I thought it was really cool. Hopefully the message it sent [to young Asian Americans] is just go for it. When I was growing up, to say that I was going to play basketball in college was outlandish. For my immigrant parents to raise two children who played professional basketball is unheard. You never know where it will take you if you just chase your dreams.”
Considering that Lin has played in the NBA, CBA, and G-League, we naturally couldn’t let him go without asking if Lin would like to play in Europe.
“I’ve definitely considered it but a big part of my story is growing up in America with parents and grandparents who were raised in Asia. A strong part of my heart is going back and playing in Asia,” he said.
“I’ve always respected the game in Europe, I’ve always wanted to experience Europe and I’ve never had a chance to do that except for a one and half week vacation that I took. To live there would have been amazing and there are certain cities I want to go to.”