We have come so far, yet we have a long way to go.
New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin had just outdueled Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. It was cause for celebration. The Knicks won their fourth game in a row, thanks to another incredible performance by Lin. Then this was tweeted:
Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.
That racist remark came from Jason Whitlock, a Fox Sports columnist. Whitlock later apologized for his attempt at humor. But it was another reminder that racism is still very much around us. Did thinking like this keep Lin down? Is racism the reason why Lin went undiscovered for so long?
In his senior year at Palo Alto High School in California, Lin led his team to a state championship. He averaged 15.1 points and 7.1 assists that season. However, Lin received no Division I scholarships. Apparently, college recruiters were not convinced.
Only Harvard University and Brown University showed interest in Lin. He chose Harvard and had an excellent basketball career there. During his senior year, Lin gained national attention after scoring 30 points against the highly-ranked UConn Huskies. During that game, a student yelled "wonton soup" while Lin was at the free throw line. He often heard racist comments at away games. Lin was further generalized when the commentator of the game incorrectly described Lin as Vietnamese.
Then NBA scouts passed on him. Lin went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft. After being overlooked again, he received an invitation from the Dallas Mavericks to play on their summer league team. In one summer league game, Lin outplayed top draft pick John Wall.
In July 2010, he received several contract offers and chose to play for the Golden State Warriors. But with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis in front of him, Lin did not get much playing time. The Warriors sent Lin to the NBA Development League twice before releasing him in December 2011.
A few days later, the Houston Rockets claimed Lin off waivers. However, the Rockets released him two weeks later to make room for center Samuel Dalembert.
Two days later, the New York Knicks claimed Lin off waivers to help their ailing backcourt. Despite their struggles at the point guard position, Lin remained firmly on the bench for the Knicks. The Knicks tried Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby and Iman Shumpert at point guard. But none of them were effective.
Finally, Lin got his chance. With a tired team playing their third game in a row, the Knicks called on him. Lin came off the bench to lead the Knicks with 25 points and 7 assists. He has been phenomenal ever since, leading the Knicks to five straight victories.
Bryant later gave Lin credit for his astonishing emergence. "Players don't usually come out of nowhere," Bryant said. "If you go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there but no one ever noticed."
So why didn't anyone notice? Why did Lin go undiscovered for so long? He has had plenty of practices with several NBA teams. He has shown star potential in high school, college and the pros. Was his ethnicity too much for the basketball world to overcome?
Now Lin is lighting it up with the Knicks. He is the talk of the NBA, and teams are kicking themselves for not giving him a chance. But do you blame them? The NBA has never seen a player like Lin. He is the first Asian-American player to ever play in the league. There was no frame of reference. There was no historical comparison.
But there is now. Lin will open the door for other Asian-American basketball players. When scouts see them they will say "this could be the next Jeremy Lin." And maybe people will talk about basketball skill, not wonton soup or the size of a body part.
More from Edwin Torres:
Edwin Torres was born in New York City. He has been a Knicks fan since the early 1980s. He has visited Madison Square Garden on many occasions to watch the Knicks and his favorite player, Patrick Ewing. For more articles, follow him on Twitter @FlipPoker.