Fans of the television program Britain's Got Talent may remember Paul Potts, an undistinguished, unprepossessing mobile phone salesman whose audition before a skeptical panel of judges launched an unlikely ascent to singing stardom. In January of this year, Jeremy Lin burst onto the NBA scene with seven magical games that made him the closest thing professional athletics has ever had to a Paul Potts story. Lin is an unlikely basketball superstar: The son of Taiwanese immigrants who work in computer science and engineering, a graduate of California's public schools (most future athletic stars end up at one of the state's elite private schools that function as de facto training academies for athletes), and then four years of college hoops at Harvard … hardly the pedigree of an elite NBA point guard.
Lin doesn't necessarily look the part either—he went from "undersized" to "gangly" without stopping in between. Even when he began to enjoy some success with the NBA's New York Knicks, sports analysts were incredulous. TNT's Shaquille O'Neal said his was a classic case of player meets system: "Mike D'Antoni's offense is designed for guys who can't jump," sniffed O'Neal at the start of Lin's magical two week run.
But there is another unique dimension to Lin (who was being pursued by the Houston Rockets this week but will apparently remain a starting point guard for the Knicks): He is a fairly outspoken evangelical Christian. Raised in the Chinese Christian church and actively involved in a number of collegiate ministries, Lin's childhood in many ways resembled the Platonic ideal of evangelical adolescence: raised in the church (check), involved in youth group (check), volunteered with at-risk youth (check), organized a Bible study in his public school (check), regularly praised by adults for his maturity (check). Indeed, it's so stereotypical that many evangelicals themselves—mostly my fellow millennials—have come to see such people as out of touch and inauthentic, dismissing them as "youth group super heroes."
For all these reasons, Jeremy Lin's story definitely belongs under the "didn't see that one coming" category. So it's unsurprising that only four months after Lin burst onto the scene, publishers have already begun to crank out biographies. Timothy Dalrymple, director of content at the online faith-and-culture hub Patheos, has written Jeremy Lin: The Reason for the Linsanity (Center Street), while Mike Yorkey, a veteran sportswriter, adds to an impressive list of Christian athlete profiles with Linspired: The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Lin (Zondervan). (The profusion of seemingly spontaneous Lin literature also includes Ted Kluck's e-book, published by Bethany House, Jeremy Lin: Faith, Joy, and Basketball.)
Both Dalrymple and Yorkey do a fair job of chronicling Lin's unlikely rise. Yorkey sticks more to a just-the-facts approach focused on Lin's life and NBA career—sprinkled with some anecdotes that may endear the book to evangelical middle- and high-schoolers. Dalrymple tends to wander a bit more, at times discussing Lin's specific religious beliefs and at others highlighting the significant racial elements to the story. On that point, Dalrymple understands the issues at hand better than most. Though not Asian-American himself, Dalrymple married a second-generation Asian-American whose parents' story bears many similarities to that of Lin's parents. Dalrymple also seems to have interviewed more people than Yorkey, which enables him to cast a wider net, giving more attention to discussions of Lin's high-school and college years. Yorkey, though, had better access to Lin himself.