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The Raptors’ Jeremy Lin is proud of playing a small role in a big victory

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2019-06-19 Doug Smith - Sports Reporter
Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin playing a game of basketball: Jeremy Lin, centre, played just 51 seconds in the NBA Finals but there was plenty more he did out of the spotlight. © Rick Madonik Jeremy Lin, centre, played just 51 seconds in the NBA Finals but there was plenty more he did out of the spotlight.

Jeremy Lin said he wrestled emotionally with being a bit player on a championship team and what it meant to him to earn a ring with the Toronto Raptors when he didn’t have much to do with what transpired on the court.

And when the Harvard graduate, a fiercely proud Asian who is now the first Asian to earn an NBA ring, broke it all down, he was rightfully proud.

As he should have been.

“I had to struggle with, ‘Do I really deserve this? The more I thought … I do. I should enjoy it and embrace it. I’m not gonna shy away from celebrating that or have anyone taking it away from me,” Lin said on the Off The Pill podcast quoted by the South China Morning Post. “Hopefully those same Asians making fun of me, five or 10 years down the road when I’m no longer playing, they can appreciate, ‘Oh, that’s the first Asian-American to win an NBA championship.”

It was telling that Danny Green, in trying to explain who kept him sane after what might have been a series-changing turnover at the end of Game 6 in Oakland, pointed to Lin as a teammate who kept him in the moment.

“JLin was great with keeping me positive, ‘We are going to get this stop. Don’t worry about it,’ ” Green said.

Also watch: First Toronto Raptors to return to Toronto receive hero's welcome (Provided by Global News)

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And that’s what teammates are, even more than guys who make passes or take shots or score the points and get the public glory. It’s what guys like Lin do. It may have taken him a while to dissect it all but he came to the realization of how he fit in a much bigger picture. He may have only played 51 seconds over the six games but he was on the team. And that counts.

“There were times in all honesty where I felt I had to tell myself I deserve a championship,” Lin said on the podcast. “As a competitor who plays and has played my whole life, I’m not used to not playing, so I was like, ‘This is tough, do I really deserve it?’

“Then I started to think about my whole journey and I definitely do. I contributed to the team, I played 23 games in the regular season. I play against these guys all the time, whether it’s in workouts or whatever, even watching the game and talking to guys, giving my opinion, being a voice.

“That’s very, very valuable. In terms of staying ready and working out, I worked really, really hard this year.

“I wish people understood just how hard we have to work, even the guys who never touch the floor, because you never know when you’re gonna get that opportunity. You have to do everything to be ready to play.”

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps

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