Asian-American Basketball Players struggle with Discrimination

Justin Lin leads Harvard in points, assists and stealsThe San Francisco Chronicle featured a great article on Asian-American basketball players and how negative perceptions of their athletic ability,  racial stereotypes, and ignorant fan comments have affected them at every level of the game.

The piece features quotes from past players like Rex Walters and current players like  Jeremy Lin, a star Asian-American player from Palo Alto, California who is now the starting point for Harvard.  Lin who leads the Crimson in points, steals and assists and is second on the team in rebounds had to fight his way into Division I basketball despite having a very successful high-school career, in part because of the preconceived notions that follow Asian athletes in the United States:

After Palo Alto High won the Division II state title in 2006, Lin’s senior season, he was named first-team All-State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year.  He was The Chronicle’s Metro Player of the Year.

Considering those honors and his senior stats – 15.1 points, 7.1 assists, 6.2 rebounds and five steals – Lin thought he’d get at least a few Division I scholarship offers.  He got none.

“I do think (my ethnicity) did affect the way coaches recruited me. I think if I were a different race, I would’ve been treated differently.”

And now Lin has to deal with ignorance and insensitive comments normally reserved for a different era: “I hear everything: ‘Go back to China. Orchestra is on the other side of campus. Open up your eyes,’ ” Lin said. “They’re yelling at me before, during and after. I’m an easy target because I’m Asian. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s part of the game. It’s a sport for white and black people,” Lin continued. “You don’t get respect for being an Asian American basketball player in the U.S.”

The piece also follows other Asian-American basketball players and coaches: Kelvin Kim, the starting point guard for UC San Diego, Erik Spoelstra, the head coach of the Miami Heat, and  Seattle Pacific’s head coach Jeff Hironaka, Blake Wallace (USF), Bobby Nash (Hawaii), and Derrick Low (Washington State).

And perhaps the most-famous and definitely the most successful Asian-American hooper is Rex Walters, however, I don’t think  many people are aware that Rex Walters is half-Asian.   The former Kansas standout and NBA player looks like every other Kansas player that ever put on a Jayhawk jersey, but it was never common knowledge that his mother is Japanese and his father is Caucasian.

Walters led the Kansas Jayhawks in scoring in both his junior (1991-92) and senior (92-93) campaigns.  During his tenure, KU combined to go 56-12 overall, winning back-to-back Big Eight titles and reaching the 1993 Final Four.  Walters was named to the All-Big Eight team both seasons and was Big Eight Male Athlete of the Year as a senior in 1993.

Walters was drafted 16th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft, played eight years in the NBA, and is now coaching the University of San Francisco.  Rex Walters is the only Asian American  men’s basketball head coach in Division I.

Links and ResourcesAsian Americans remain rare in men’s college basketball (SFGate.com), Rex Walters Bio (CSTV.com),  Rex Walters Photos (Jamd.com)

4 Comments

  • And then I have to listen to these people giving me (a spaniard) lessons in sensitivity and racism. What a joke.

  • Mr Nielson will be missed by many.He Was a great actor.I loved him in “Naked Gun” .He enjoyed what he did. He will never be 4gotten.R.I.P. Mr Nielson.

  • Racist author

    I like how the article is about discrimination, racism and stereotypes yet the name of the picture is “justin lin”. HMMMM K

  • U MADE IT JEREMY LIN

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