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Having tasted his fair share of hate, Jeremy Lin is now on a mission to redefine love

Ten years after the rise of "Linsanity", 2019 NBA champion Jeremy Lin is hoping to "redefine love" for the next generation when his professional basketball career is over. Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

IT HAS BEEN a decade since the rise of "Linsanity". When a then-relatively unknown Jeremy Lin took the NBA by storm.

Ten years on, he is a cultural icon, a flag bearer for the Asian American community, with fans all over the world. And he can also lay claim to being an NBA champion.

Lin's journey is one that has been well documented. He had to get to the NBA the hard way after going undrafted, overcoming stereotyping and battling racism to get to where he is today. A documentary reliving "Linsanity" recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Plenty has been written in the story of Jeremy Lin. But the blank canvas that is the next chapter? That is what gets him really excited.

"As I'm getting older and closer to retirement, one thing that really matters to me is this concept of redefining love," Lin told ESPN.

"Basically, when people ask me what I want to have accomplished when I'm done with my time on earth, one of the biggest things is that I want to be able to say I redefined love for the next generation.

"There is a feeling that the world is really divisive right now. There's a lot of hostility and finger-pointing and name-calling. I just want to be able to create a more unified world built around empathy."

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How does Lin aim to accomplish that? Well, he's already got started.

Lin was recently unveiled as the first global brand ambassador for LingoAce, a global education technology company headquartered in Singapore.

At a time when there has been increased violence and negative attitudes towards the Asian American community, Lin is adamant that being exposed to different languages and cultures will lend to a greater understanding of different perspectives -- and can only lead to greater empathy.

Now 33, Lin is refreshingly realistic and aware that his time as a professional basketball player will come to an end soon.

He is already preparing himself for future endeavors that tie in with his goals and mantra of spreading love and building opportunities, like his partnership with LingoAce. In his own words: "business for good".

"On one hand, you look at the violence and everything that's going on... in some ways this is what many call the worst time to be an Asian American in recent history," he said, when asked if he felt the attitude towards Asian Americans has changed since he broke onto the scene back in 2012.

"On the other side, companies like LingoAce give me a lot of hope. I do think people are starting to be more open to learning the Chinese language and being more accepting of the Chinese or Asian culture, or Asian Americans.

"There's this huge dichotomy when you juxtapose the two together -- you end up not really knowing what to really think. I would say both truths can exist, that there is a lot of bad and harm going on but there's also improvement happening at the same time."


JEREMY LIN IS completely comfortable with his identity. Now.

He is proud of his heritage. He stands tall (especially tall at 6-foot-3) for the Asian American community.

It did not always come this naturally.

Remembering a national tournament in Florida when he was representing North California, Lin recounted: "I just remember as I was walking out, people were calling me 'Yao Ming' and different names, and I was so embarrassed.

"My whole face turned red and I kept head down and tried to walk as fast as I could. I was the only Asian there.

"I think back on that and I just wish I had held my head high. And when they called me 'Yao Ming', I had told them 'no, my name is Jeremy Lin'.

"I wish I had stood up and just carried myself with pride, versus allowing everything from the outside to make me shrink and become small.

"I'm comfortable in my skin today but probably spent most of life not. The fact that everybody else has an opinion and narrative about who I am, and everybody wants to tell me who I am meant sometimes I don't even know who I am.

"Ultimately, where I am today, I know where my grandparents and parents were born and raised, I know where I was born and raised, and I'm proud of everything that makes me 'me', and I don't try to hide from it.

"I just want to be myself and hopefully that's the evolution of everybody. As we continue to get older and older, you become increasingly prouder of who you are."

Not shying away from his culture has also allowed him to share it with others and allow them to have a greater appreciation of something that would have initially seemed foreign.

"When I would go on my Asia trips I would always bring one of my NBA teammates -- David Lee, Steve Novak, Landry Fields, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dimwiddie," he added.

"When they leave, they talk about this trip to Asia as one of the highlights of their lives and how it was the best thing ever.

"When we are proud and we display our culture, other people have the chance to embrace it, soak in it and enjoy the beauty of the culture."


A GAME CHANGER. A pioneer. Jeremy Lin indelibly left his mark on the NBA.

A decade on from "Linsanity", as he is aware that he is nearer to the end of his career rather than the start, can Lin truly appreciate what he achieved?

"I don't know if I'll ever fully understand what I meant to the game. Period. I think to some degree, that's okay," he mused.

"There's no point of 'I've figured it all out, I know what I meant to people'. There will always be untold stories that will be uncovered over time. As long as I continue to hear other people's stories on what I meant to them and staying on that path, I'm very happy.

"That's actually the beauty of it. People think that athletes and celebrities bring a gift to the world and it's one-sided, and that's actually not true.

"We bring our gifts and talents, we encourage and inspire people but because of what we did, they're going and chasing their own dreams and doing things for the next generation.

"That's what humanity is about. We're in it together, learning from each other, helping each other -- and that's the beauty of it."

Through his work off the court, including his partnership with LingoAce, Lin is eager to play his part in helping the next generation, particularly those that may have lesser opportunities, achieve their full potential.

Poignantly, doing just that is what he believes will make him achieve his full potential. Not as Jeremy Lin, the basketball player and NBA champion, but as Jeremy Lin -- a human redefining love.

"Essentially, I want to make systemic change that is centered around love," said Lin.

"What would it mean to redefine love within the philanthropy industry? What happens if donors donated in a way that really served the non-profits? What would it look like if we brought education -- high quality Edtech (education technology) -- to a ton of places that wouldn't normally have this access?

"Is that a form of love? I absolutely think that's a tremendous form of love.

"Here I am being a world-class basketball player because somebody put a ball in my hands. Imagine if I never had access to basketball -- how different would my life look?

"Can we give education to a lot of kids where, if they had that education, they become something they never though they could become?

"That's what I see as the fullest version of myself -- helping the next generation become their fullest selves."