Basketball’s newest superstar, Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin, has a Tiger Mother determined to make sure her son succeeds in every possible way. His high school coach Peter Diepenbrock recalls Shirley Lin calling his office line many afternoons. She wanted to make sure Jeremy was studying as hard as he was playing and keeping up his grades. “Peter, Peter, Jeremy has an A- in this class, if it is not an A by next week, I am taking him off basketball,” she would threaten. “Yes, I will stay on top of Jeremy,” Diepenbrock said, not wanting to get between a Tiger Mom and her goals for her talented son. But she didn’t neglect Jeremy’s basketball prowess, either. Diepenbrock also remembers her sitting in the stands an hour before the game going through the other team’s box scores.
And Shirley Lin (above, with her family; Jeremy is at the far right) was a tiger as well defending her son’s achievement.Though Jeremy was a good student and a top athlete in high school, he was turned down by many of the colleges to which he applied, but was admitted to Harvard. A couple of seasons ago after a Harvard-Yale game where Jeremy had played exceptionally well for Harvard, Shirley approached the Yale coach James Jones, who like so many others had been unmoved by a video the then-unheralded California youngster had sent to the nation's top schools. "She came over and I didn't know if she was mad at me or not," Jones recalled this week. "I told her Jeremy had played a great game. And she said, 'Yes, but you didn't want him.'"
Ah, the snarl of a Tiger Mom.
Now Shirley says she is just hoping that things “will get back to normal.” But that seems unlikely since Linsanity has gripped the nation. And clearly Lin’s upbringing and his mom’s’ guidance helped the new headliner stay determined when times were tough and stay humble as he deals with his skyrocketing fame. .
Shirley and her husband Gie-Ming emigrated from Taiwan to the United States in the mid-1970s. Jeremy has an older brother, Josh, who is a dental student in Manhattan. Jeremy started the season in New York crashing on his couch. He also has a younger brother, Joseph, who is a student at Hamilton College. Gie-Ming taught his sons to play basketball at the local YMCA. He would take his sons, but only after their homework was done, to play almost every evening. The family is Christian and devout. Jeremy has talked about one day becoming a minister or heading a non-profit organization.
Very close to his family, he often goes on fishing trips with them. A family joke: The best fisherman is Shirley Lin, who can catch more fish than her husband or sons. Her birthday is just three days before his on August 20th and it is also his parents’ wedding anniversary. On her last birthday he tweeted her: “Happy Birthday to my beloved Mom and Happy Anniversary to my parents!! I’m using twitter because she’s screening my calls….lol”
About his parents, Jeremy has said: “My dad has been a very special person in my life obviously and he has shown me the way and he is the reason why I got into basketball. And I want to include my mom on this. I just think I look up to my parents because when we talk about basketball, they don’t necessarily talk always about whether we won or whether we scored a lot of points. I think they do a great job of teaching me about playing in a Godly manner. I think there will be times where I might have a great individual performance but I might lose my temper and that’s what they’re going to talk to me about. I think it’s a whole new perspective and that is something my parents only really talks to me about and no one really calls me out on it. I’m still learning from them. The way they see the game and the way they judge me on the court is more valuable than anything else they can do.”
And though Shirley can be a tiger, she can be a panda, too. Friends say she was not only accepting of Jeremy’s desire to play basketball but encouraged him to focus after Harvard not on an MBA but on the NBA. And Shirley is beginning to enjoy her son’s new fame. Just the other evening after the Knicks beat the Kings, Jeremy took his parents to celebrate his dad’s birthday at a chic New York restaurant. No doubt, Shirley Lin was also celebrating what some say is a Tiger Mother’s greatest dream—a son who is a Harvard finance graduate and who also happens to be the NBA’s most inspiring superstar.
Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.