The basketball court at Palo Alto High School is unusual in that there are no floor-level seats for the fans. The grandstand is raised, like a balcony encircling the playing area, making it feel as if hundreds of people are simultaneously leaning forward to peer down at the players below. During games, the home fans sit together on one side, occasionally looking to their left to gaze at the state championship banners that hang on the wall next to the scoreboard.
This is where Shirley Lin (吳信信) would sit, usually in jeans and a team sweatshirt, cheering with the rest of the parents as her son, Jeremy (林書豪), ran up and down the floor. At halftime, she would bounce around, talking to parents and teachers, checking in on the food and drink offerings she probably had a hand in organizing. Then, when the game resumed, she would return to her seat, peering intently at her son.
“She was not the loudest,” said Mike Baskauskas, the father of one of Jeremy’s teammates. “But you knew she was there. She was probably the single most involved parent I’ve ever been around.”
Shirley’s husband, on the other hand, was always silent, and this was by design. Before every game, Lin Gie-ming (林繼明) would traipse up the steps on the opposite side of the gym — to the point farthest from the rest of the home fans — with his video camera in hand. Sometimes, he would take along Jeremy’s younger brother, Joseph; sometimes, he would go alone. However, he was always in the rafters instead of among the other parents, his camera trained on the floor.
“I guess you wouldn’t want to have your voice on the tape all the time, so that worked for him,” said Michael Lehman, who worked with Shirley at Sun Microsystems and whose son, Brad, was a teammate of Jeremy’s. “But he was always there. You knew he cared and loved watching his son play.”
By now, the mileposts of Jeremy Lin’s basketball life are legend: state championship in high school. No scholarship offers. Harvard. Undrafted by the NBA. Picked up (and discarded) by a couple of teams. End of the bench with the Knicks. Got his shot on a February night and suddenly, incredibly, his world became a flash bulb.
Over the past three weeks, Jeremy Lin has been poked and prodded by the tentacles of celebrity. He has had his high school days examined, his college years parsed and his rise to fame chronicled in publications across the world. Less attention, though, has been given to the story of his parents, who navigated a winding path from Taiwan to the Tidewater section of Virginia, from Purdue University to Palo Alto, on their way to raising a global icon.
“Jeremy’s life was formed by his parents,” said Fu-chang Lo, an elder at the Lin family church, and he and others who know the family say that to fully comprehend Jeremy’s rise from relative anonymity, his parents’ story must be understood.
Indeed, long before there were Madison Square Garden and endorsement opportunities and an unending spotlight on a quiet family from the Bay Area, there were two graduate students in a cramped apartment in Indiana, a rattling Ford Taurus and bills so overwhelming they once gripped the family’s finances.
At its roots, though, the parents’ journey is simple: About 40 years ago, Lin Gie-ming, a boy from Beidou (北斗), Changhua County, and Shirley, then known as Wu Xinxin (吳信信), a girl from Kaohsiung, thought of coming to the US. They dreamed of pursuing an education. They dreamed of perhaps, someday, raising a family.