The Undiscovered Star in the Cubicle in the Back

Jeremy Lin

There was an interesting interview of Spike Lee (, the American film director, who is also an avid fan of the New York Knicks basketball team, a few days ago. As some may know, in the past couple of weeks a previously unknown basketball player, Jeremy Lin, has become an overnight sports star because of his solid play, the resulting wins by New York, and his personal story.

An American of Taiwanese ancestry, Lin was a benchwarmer for the Knicks, who considered releasing Lin before his contract became guaranteed on February 10 so they could sign a new player. The Cinderella story (one can already imagine Hollywood figuring out how to create a movie about this) even has the requisite “sleeping on his brother’s couch in the lower east side because he wasn’t sure how much longer he would have a job with the Knicks” scene.

However, during a February 3 loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Mike D’Antoni decided to give Lin a chance to play. “He got lucky because we were playing so bad,” said D’Antoni. Lin had played only 55 minutes through the Knicks’ first 23 games. Just one week later he was named NBA Player of the Week.

Lee made some interesting points about the lessons learned from Lin’s story. The first, although somewhat sentimental, has a positive, affirming tone to it, namely, that

Interviewer: How did the NBA system miss this guy? You know he’s been cut a couple of times, he’s riding the bench with the Knicks. This is a system that is built to find talent in the NBA, and clearly the guy didn’t get good just last week or two weeks ago. How did everybody miss him?

Lee: Well, they can measure your weight, they can measure your vertical leap, they can measure your height. They can look at your stats, but you can’t really measure heart, desire, your spirit, your will to win, and Jeremy Lin possesses all that.

Later, the interviewer asks this question:

Interviewer: Do you think that this might open people’s eye not just in basketball but in other areas of sort of expanding…

Lee: I’ve got the answer for that. I have an advertising agency called Spike DDB, and we yesterday we had our quarterly meeting to go over the numbers, and one executive said that the great thing about this Jeremy Lin is that it’s not just affecting sports. Coaches, now really have to look at the end of their bench. People in business might have to look at this person down the hall in this cubicle. Because unless you take the time to know what you got, you could have a gem there. So what’s been happening with Jeremy Lin is not just affecting sports, its affecting business, everything. Everybody is going to start looking under rocks, looking at that nondescript person that stuck in the cubicle or wherever they are and say “Is this person good?”

Lee also talks a bit about how we judge people’s potential by their appearance and how this puts people in boxes and blocks people from becoming great. There is some food for thought on how, in business, we might go about judging people and whether that person the leadership rated as a “C” player is actually a star if  only they let that person out of the box. It also speaks, equally, to the idea that all employees, all individuals, must be prepared to seize the opportunity that might come along, even if a fluke, to demonstrate what we are capable of doing.

The interview is found here: