Jeremy Lin opens up about faith, identity and "Linsanity"

The Houston Rocks guard gets introspective in front of a crowd of 20,000.

Jeremy Lin was recently a featured speaker at the "Dream Big, Be Yourself" Christian youth conference in Taiwan. In front of a crowd of 20,000 attendees, through a translator, the NBA star shared about his faith, his identity and his career, getting honest about his amazing highs on the court -- who can forget "Linsanity"? -- and the tremendous pressure and scrutiny that was placed on him when he arrived in Houston.

Ultimately, Jeremy says he could not let himself be defined by the critics and onlookers, nor could he strive to live up to the "Linsanity," because that would be setting himself up for disappointment. After much reflection, Jeremy says it always came back to his identity in God. And he challenged the audience to do the same.

Here's video of Jeremy's speech (it begins at 1:06:22):

Here's a partial transcript of Jeremy's testimony:

Every year, I come back and share my testimony. I basically just recap what God has taught me in the last year. So let me start with a little background. Since most of you guys know my story before "Linsanity," I'll just briefly go through it.

I started my NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. And my first year didn't go very well. I hardly every played. Many of you guys bought my Warriors jersey. And you guys probably wore it more often than I did.

At the start of the next season, the Warriors cut me on the very first day of practice. And then the Houston Rockets picked me up. Twelve days later, the Rockets cut me.

You guys keep laughing when I get cut and I don't play.

New York ended up picking me up. And does anybody remember what happened on February 4th, 2012? [Audience cheers.] That's pretty good. I actually had to look up the date. On that day, I had my breakout game against the New Jersey Nets.

[Translator has some trouble with the "New Jersey Nets" reference.]

It's okay. It's 'cause they moved to Brooklyn, so we're all mixed up right now.

That game changed my life forever. I went from being cut twice that season to being the starting point guard for the Knicks overnight. And I remember literally crying tears of joy in the shower. We went on to win seven games in a row. And that's what everyone calls "Linsanity." I was setting NBA records. I was on the cover of TIME magazine. I was the most trending person on the entire planet. And to top it all off, I signed a $25 million contract with the Houston Rockets. And I like to eat. Do you know how many Chicken McNuggets I can buy with my new contract? I don't really know, but I'm sure it's a lot.

As the 2012-13 season started, I was supposed to be the cornerstone of the Houston Rockets. I was supposed to be their new leader. The main guy to finally lead the Rockets to the NBA Playoffs. I was expecting to come in and pick up right where I left off. And I was ready to invigorate the entire city of Houston. All across Houston, you could see my face on the billboards. I thought I looked so cool. I was like this.

[Strikes a pose.]

I was supposed to save Houston basketball. But most importantly, I was ready to be "Linsanity." But as I've seen many times in my life, what actually happened was nothing like I had planned.

First off, we signed James Harden. For those of you who don't know him, he's the one with the big beard. Sometimes when we're at team meals, he'll be eating and he'll get all this food stuck in his beard. And he won't know because he can't feel it. But it bothers me, so I'm always cleaning his beard.

With the addition of James, I went from being a franchise guy to taking a backseat. And on top of that, I started the season playing terribly. Less than ten games into the season, I started getting benched. And in many games, our backup point guards were playing more minutes than I was. At this point in the season, my stats were significantly worse. The coaches were losing faith in me. Basketball fans were making fun of me. I know no one from Taiwan, right?


Journalists were criticizing me. My Twitter feed was filled with all types of hateful words. I heard "overrated." "Overpayed." "A flash in the pan." "A bust." "A nobody." And as a result, I became really really frustrated. On December 15th 2012, I wrote in my diary, "I'm tired and weary, and I can't wait for this season to end." I went on to write, "I haven't been able to eat or sleep recently. I'm just tossing and turning in anxiety. What if I lose my spot as a starter? What if I have to be a backup for the rest of the season? What happens if my backups are actually better than me?"

I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player. I was so obsessed with living up to my contract. And I became so obsessed with trying to be "Linsanity." Being this phenomenon that took the NBA and the world by storm. "Linsanity" was supposed to be my breakthrough, where I went from being stuck on the bench to experiencing new freedom as an up and coming star. Houston was supposed to be a fresh start. A new beginning. A new journey. Most of all, I was supposed to be joyful and free.

But what I experienced was the opposite. I had no joy and I felt no freedom. I felt chained to the world's lofty expectations. I felt like I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. And that's why I couldn't eat or sleep. That's why I was no fun to be around. I never smiled. In fact, I even cried before a game against the New Orleans Hornets, because I was so anxious about losing my starting spot.

I had to self-reflect. I had to ask, would I allow myself to listen to what everyone else said about me? Would I allow myself to be consumed by my performance on the court? To be consumed by my job? I based my self-worth on how many points I scored or how many games I started. I based my self-esteem on being the player that everyone else expected me to be. But my identity should never have been based on basketball. And this is when God showed me I needed an identity check.

So what did I have to do? I had to re-prioritize my life. I told myself, I'm longer going to listen to everyone else's voice. I'm not even going to listen to my own voice anymore. I had to get back to listening to God's voice. I had to get back to being what God made me to be. I had to return to my identity as one of God's children, rather than trying to be "Linsanity," which was an identity created by the world.

So my challenge to you today is this: who are you? What is your identity? In order to know the answer, you have to know what makes you the happiest, or what makes you the most proud of yourself. You have to know what makes you the saddest, or what makes you feel like you're not worth anything. What gives you your self-worth or your feeling of importance?

For me, I couldn't feel joy or feel important unless I played like "Linsanity." Unless I played well enough to drown out the voice of the haters and hear the praise of my supporters.

You see, everyone listens to a voice. And you need to know what voice you're listening to everyday. Whose voice do you hear the loudest in your life? It could be the voice of your peers, the voice of your parents, the voice of your boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be the voice of your boss. Do you become extremely sensitive to criticism? Or completely deflated when your boss critiques you or writes a bad review?

You can also listen to the voice of things you want. It could be the voice of money, beauty, acceptance, power. It could be the voice of your job or your schoolwork. Do you slave away at work or at school, desperate to get that promotion or to get into that college? To validate yourself as a person?

Which voice is the loudest in your life? And if the voice you listen to the most isn't God's voice, then eventually you will experience that emptiness, confusion and misery that I felt when I listened to the voice of "Linsanity."
More here: Lin: 'I was supposed to be their new leader'

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