Jeremy Lin’s Streak: How His Faith Might Help

Playing for God and not for the hype just might be the best way to handle a miraculous run

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Adam Hunger / Reuters

New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin drives to the basket between Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Marion, right, and Vince Carter at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Feb. 19, 2012

Jeremy Lin is on a streak. He had an unprecedented week of games, making his NBA opponents look like they were playing in slow motion. But, like any athlete, he has weaknesses, and like any athlete, he knows that. But being on a streak is an alternate reality; it is divine. As my colleague once told me when he was hitting well for weeks, “The only one who can stop me right now is God.” When you are on a streak, your opponent becomes invisible, irrelevant even. It is you against you and it will last until doubt creeps in.

(PHOTOS: The Rise of Jeremy Lin)

I had a few streaks over my career and in the midst of them, I tried not to ask too many questions. I tried to enjoy the possibility that I was that good and that I could maintain that level of play every day. This was a lot easier to believe when I was 25 and just beginning as opposed to 33 with an encyclopedia for a scouting report that my opponents read for a bedtime story.

I found that as soon as you start taking pictures of your own run, the run runs off the cliff. You have to expect it to be indicative of the correct alignment of the stars; you have to embrace it and the strange feeling you have on the court that reminds you of that three-block stretch you drove and didn’t remember you drove it.

Lin has dropped nearly 30 points a game as if he was the invisible man on the court amongst the blindfolded. Previously, there was nothing on his resume that evokes the stereotypical success story for the NBA, in part because his bullet points hadn’t existed before. Harvard, Taiwanese-American, Christian, 23 years old. Actually, you didn’t find those four bullet points if you put together all the resumes in NBA since it began. So he was invisible in basketball history too.

(MORE: Why Jeremy Lin Can’t Be Made in China)

Yet now, off the court, he has become very visible even as his opponents seem to be chasing a ghost. And in the world of social media, he has literally exploded onto a p.r. firm’s wish list. The NBA and the Knicks can’t keep his jersey online or in the concession stands, but Lin must remember that to keep his streak intact, it’s best if he doesn’t read his own tweets.

It would appear his faith may help him with this just-add-water stardom, as it seemed to help Tim Tebow when he fell back to earth. Lin has spoken about playing for God and not for the hype, not for the tangible. “I’m not working hard and practicing day in and day out so that I can please other people. My audience is God,” he has said. And during a streak, that is probably the best way to absorb it. As soon as you feel like it is in the very human hands of people, including your own, you begin to recognize the sweatiness of those palms and poof, the ball goes out of bounds.

And yes, your weaknesses creep up on you. Like any young player, he has them. He has trouble going to his left, he is susceptible to turnovers, he needs to improve his defense. Nothing overly shocking for a rookie, but it does lend itself to believe that his streak will eventually end or at least slow down. After all, the NBA is making adjustments to him at breakneck pace unless for some strange reason “Linsanity” was the dog that ate the homework his opponents should have been doing.

For now, Lin should enjoy the ride, one that has inspired a nation, awoken a franchise that had been circling the drain for quite some time. He has the aptitude to figure out a way to stay on his runaway train by being a quick learner, a fast adjuster, and to meet his goal to do it with selfless intention. For Lin to keep it going towards a legendary career instead of a legendary week, he will have to be just flat out better, not just flat out hotter. And only time will tell.

(MORE: TIME Asia Cover Story: Linsanity!)

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